Back in December I finished reading the Bible from beginning to end. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety before, but one thing I’ve learned over the years, is that every time you study the Word, you learn something new, and so once I finished Revelation, I picked right back up in Genesis, come January. Whether you’ve read it once, twice, or even hundreds of times before, the Word of God will never return void (Isaiah 55:11). I’ve found that the Holy Spirit is continually changing our heart and perspective, so much so, that stories we’ve read and learned about when we were children (whether physically or spiritually) are understood and viewed completely different the next time we read/study them. I always like to compare the Word of God to an onion and how it has layer after layer of knowledge and wisdom that can only be revealed to us after the Holy Spirit has exposed to us the first layer, then the next, and so forth.
In my case, reading Genesis this time around, got me thinking about the character of the men that God chose to fulfill His promises. I was amazed by Abraham’s faith, and was, surprisingly, only slightly disappointed when he tried to accomplish God’s plans on his own, producing Ishmael. I mean, let’s face it, how often have we been prone to attempt to accomplish God’s will on our own, only to make a mess of things? But as I read on, I found myself questioning Jacob’s character. I mean, here’s a man who’s scheming and manipulating (with encouragement from his mother, no less) gets him…exactly where God wanted him? I wrote in my journal after reading about Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing, that Jacob’s character left me “unimpressed,” and I actually questioned God, regarding His use of Jacob to complete His plans. “I just don’t get it, Lord,” I wrote. I thought a little more on it, and just decided that God uses us—imperfect, flawed humans—to accomplish His will and just left it at that.
Then, last night during our ladies’ Bible study, our leader read from a Matt Chandler book The Explicit Gospel, which I have yet to read and therefore can’t recommend, but the point that she made, referencing Psalm 139:13-18, was that God knew our very personality and character before He knit us together in our mothers’ womb.
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6, emphasis added)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-18, emphasis added)
God not only knew our personality and character, but also our thoughts and responses to the people and things we’d face in life. God knew each of our days before we ever live(d) it! Suddenly, whereas before I wondered and questioned whether or not that’s how things had to play out for Jacob. For instance, did he really have to go along with his mother’s plan to steal Esau’s blessing? I now realized that God knew exactly how everything was going to play out because he knew the character of Jacob, and his mother, long before they were born! He knew it and He planned on it!
In the past I’d wondered even about my own poor decisions and choices, but now I realize that God wasn’t surprised by anything I did, because He knew it all along and He planned on it. That makes me wonder what else He has planned? How does He see this all playing out in my life and how does He plan to use my life—past, present, and future—to bring glory to His Name?
Now, I don’t want you thinking that just because God knew beforehand the choices that I would make, excuses me for making them; because we’re still subject to the consequences of our free will, but just like Joseph stated when he came face-to-face with the brother’s who’d betrayed him years before, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today,” I know that my experiences serve a dual purpose that God has preordained and planned far in advance (Genesis 50:20).
Finally, I know that my past decisions have disappointed and caused God sorrow, even though He expected them, which just further enhances my appreciation for the divine mercy and grace He’s shown me despite my shortcomings. I’m nothing special, just like Jacob, David, and Paul were nothing special. We’re all human, we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and we’re all going to disappoint God in some way, but His mercy and grace have absolutely nothing to do with us, and everything to do with His character. I now realize that the men and women of the Bible weren’t extraordinary because of their own character, but because of God’s character. God chose to use them, just as He chooses to use us, to fulfill His own purposes, not because of who we are or what we have or haven’t done, but because of Who He Is. His plans are perfect even if they’re carried out by imperfect us.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
And for that…I am thankful beyond expression.