Read: Genesis 28:1-5; Genesis 28:10-19; Jonah 4:1-11; Luke 22:47-51
At the time of this writing, we have three small cantaloupes in the garden. They might or might not mature so we can savor their sweetness. The plants are looking a bit scruffy, and it is anybody's guess how long they will support their fruit. However, I remember a very different year when the cantaloupes were much larger and getting close to being just right for the picking. At that time, we were gardening with friends because we lived in an apartment, and it was looking like a good melon year. Until that night. Evidently there were those who also saw that it was a good melon year; however, they showed their "appreciation" for what had been grown in a far different way than we would have. They threw the nearly ripe fruit down the viaduct. Smashing it. I would have gladly shared it or even been content if it had been taken to enjoy, but a wanton act of destruction made me sad. Something good should be savored not smashed. Surely if that is true concerning vine ripened fruit, it is infinitely truer of God's grace. How sweet the undeserved unearned favor of God is. How refreshing it is to revel in it, enjoying its beauty. So, for today, let's look at three very different pictures of God's grace and taste and see how good the Lord is, Psalm 34:8. Let's start with Jacob.
In Genesis 25:22-24, Jacob's mother was told that she was carrying twins. No ultrasound needed! There was more. The older twin Jacob would be stronger than his brother Esau, and Esau would serve Jacob. There was a struggle being played out within Rebekah's womb. Years later, when Esau came back home from a hunt, he was very hungry. When he asked Jacob for bread and lentil stew, Jacob sold it to him for the family birthright. The struggling between them was apparent even then, Genesis 25:29-34. However, in Genesis 27, the pot came to a rolling boil. Here is where Jacob with the help of his mother Rebekah tricks the twins' father Isaac into giving Jacob the family blessing. Yes, all along, as Rebekah knew, God had said that Jacob would have the preeminence. Yet, she did not wait for God's way to accomplish His will; instead, she schemed and deceived, and she convinced Jacob to walk that same path with her. That is why when we reach Genesis 28, Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau and their home. Esau was so angry at Jacob's deceit that he wanted to kill him. Enter grace. Talk about a sighting of God's goodness where we wouldn't expect it. Jacob had just tricked his nearly blind father into giving him the blessing because he had pretended to be Esau. But God met His man Jacob not with a sword but with a ladder. It was the second night of Jacob's flight. He had found a stone on which to rest his head. Then came the dream where angels went up and down on a ladder that reached to heaven, but that wasn't all. God spoke to him. Not words of anger and rebuke as might be expected if we hadn't read the account. No, the Lord told Jacob that the covenant promises that had been received by Abraham and been passed on to Isaac would also pass through him. The land on which he had slept would one day belong to Jacob's people, and all the nations would be blessed through the One Who was to come through his line, Genesis 28:12-16. God would be with him and care for him, and He would also bring Jacob back to the land from which he was fleeing. No wonder when Jacob awakened, he poured oil on his "pillow" and set it up as a pillar to honor the Lord. What a picture Jacob had received of God's grace.
Next, let's observe Jonah and the unexpected grace he received. Like Jacob, Jonah also had a time when he was fleeing. There is a vast difference between these two men. Jacob fled from an angry brother, Jonah fled from a gracious God and an assignment he was bound and determined not to carry out. Such an amazing story of unmerited favor. The path of God's grace is visible throughout the book, but for today, let's rest in chapter 4. When we meet Jonah here, he has with reluctance and frankly a lack of love for the people of Nineveh, delivered God's message, and Jonah fears the worst has occurred. In the prophet's case, that didn't mean that the wicked people of Nineveh had rejected God; instead, Jonah was angry because the people had repented and had therefore been spared the judgment of God. Jonah didn't savor God's grace; instead, he found it to be very distasteful. Rather than rejoicing in God's lavish grace toward the people to whom he had preached, Jonah wanted to die because of God's goodness. This was the prophet of God. The one who was tasked with speaking the words and telling others about the heart of God. God's reaction to His angry servant? He gave Jonah an object lesson and talked with His servant. Grace upon grace. God grew a special plant for Jonah, and Jonah was happy. Then God brought a worm to destroy the plant and caused a scorching wind to make Jonah very uncomfortable. Once again, Jonah was angry. This time it wasn't because of the grace God had poured out on Nineveh. No, it was because God had taken away his cooling shelter. It was grace that caused God to comfort His prophet and grace that took that plant away. Did Jonah care more about a plant than the children and even the animals that lived in Nineveh? God wanted Jonah to ponder that. God hadn't given up on Jonah, and that's what chapter 4 is all about. When Jonah hadn't displayed God's love toward the people of Nineveh, God kept interacting with him. God continued to grace Jonah with the favor Jonah had wanted to withhold from the people of Nineveh.
Next, let's look at an incident that occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Luke 22:47-51, grace was poured out alongside betrayal and wickedness. In other gospel accounts, we read that it was Simon Peter who swung his sword and cut off the high priest's servant's ear. At this time, Peter displayed zealousness for Jesus, but Jesus let him know that his actions were not appropriate or necessary. Then Jesus extended God's grace by healing the servant's ear. Unmerited favor came shining into the garden. The darkness could not extinguish the grace that Jesus held out. Did that servant revel in the healing touch of the one that they were arresting? Did the fact that he left the garden whole and healed cause him to long to know the One Who had touched him? Or, did the grace get tossed aside?
What can we savor about these accounts from the scriptures? For one thing, perhaps we love people like Jacob whose lives aren't displaying good fruit. Or perhaps, we love a Jonah who is angry with God. In both cases, we can be encouraged as we think of our God of grace Who continues to hold out His arms even toward those whose lives look so very undeserving, Romans 10:20-21.
Or maybe we can be the ones to hold out glimpses of God's grace in dark places. No, we won't heal a man's ear, but perhaps God will use our words or kindnesses to paint a picture of His love in a dark circumstance.
Lord, Thank You for reaching out to us with Your grace.