Human Faith and God’s Faithfulness
“Leap of faith – yes, but only after reflection”
― Søren Kierkegaard
“There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Faith is the act of trusting God, even when we cannot see or understand exactly what this may mean for our lives (faith is not a complete leap in the dark). Faith is a trust in God even when God does not make sense (which happens a lot, even in the Bible) or even when our faith feels weak and inconsistent. The question I want to ask is this: what if “God’s faithfulness” is bigger than our “human faith?” What if the Bible is actually telling us about the faithfulness of God, in contrast to the faithlessness of human beings?
One story that has always puzzled me is the story about Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were brothers (in case you have never read the story). Basically Jacob and Esau were battling in the womb (they were not peaceful womb-mates). Esau was called to serve Jacob (and the elder shall serve the younger), which in Middle Eastern culture was not how things worked (in many cultures the oldest is still highly esteemed). The oldest is the treasure of the family (this story already begins to go against cultural traditions, God seems to like breaking human rules).
What happens is Jacob deceives his pop (dad) and tricks his brother into giving him the birth right for a bowl of food (maybe if it was a cheese burger I’d do it). This turns into a nasty family feud that would probably be on Jerry Springer (who knows, maybe they had a tribal show back then), and apparently in the end they reconcile. Why do I bring this story up? Well, Jacob’s name means “Israel” and this means “One who wrestles with God.” Despite the drama and trickery of Jacob, he was still the person God chose to use and bless despite all of the injustice he committed. Jacob eventually had twelve sons who became Israel and Israel gave birth to Jesus. There it is, one of the oldest stories of the Sacred Scriptures depicting the faithlessness of man and showing us the faithfulness of God.
Human faithlessness is everywhere in the Scriptures. In other words, if God were faithless like humans were, humanity and God would be divorced (that would be frightening, probably be a really good horror movie though, maybe not). The story the Bible is attempting to tell is the story about God being faithful to human beings despite human beings being dirtballs and scoundrels. The story of God’s faithfulness begins with God creating humanity in a garden and this garden story ends badly (they are thrown out). Then God calls a man named Abraham, and Abraham happens to be very a old man who is promised a kid (this would be on the news, old man and his wife have a baby), and this kid has more kids, and then they have kids, and kids, and kids keep coming (Israel was the product of a long line dating back to Abraham). Israel and the people of God were called, elected by God, and God was the one leading them and guiding them despite Israel’s disobedience (read the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the prophets and you’ll catch my drift).
The story does not end with Israel’s disobedience, because the truth be told, God was committed to Israel for better or for worse. Through judgment He refined Israel and through obedience He rejoiced in Israel. Let us not disqualify or qualify Israel and humans based off their faithlessness and faithfulness; God’s election is deeper and stronger than human faith. His Election is what holds/binds us together, it is an election solely based in Him, because Israel was his wife (and still is).In the NT John shows up announcing the news that God was coming, coming in the flesh, coming to deliver His people from their sins, the sins of injustice, and the sins that had held them bondage; calling them to a baptism of repentance. Jesus himself enters into the baptism of Israel as Givens (2014) writes, “The one knew Israel’s sins only as his own, who joined his people in the baptism of repentance at the Jordan, who set his face to go nowhere but Jerusalem, even when that road of solidarity led to the cross. He who knew no sin became sin that we become the justice of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21).”
The human race is shown for what it is, weak, faithless, inconsistent, and yet in Jesus he loves us as his own despite us and relates to us in our humanity. The goods news is that God’s faithfulness has been revealed in and through Jesus, that in Jesus humanity and creation are being summed up, there is no faith to small, God will not blow out the dimly lit candle. Whatever you may feel, or sense about God, whether your faith waivers back and forth, God’s decisive action in and through Jesus displays His commitment towards you. The cross and the resurrection are God’s stamp upon humanity; because God’s faithfulness is good news, good news to a world estranged and fearful, living in the dark. But ah, the candle has been lit, and this light shall go before us, with us in the dark, guiding us, moving us forward, it will be as the psalmist said, “a light unto our feet,” Jesus Christ, Immanuel – God with us. Amen