Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
There’s a progression here — I think these two sayings are connected. As I understand it, Hebrew parallelism contrasts two things, two opposites, with each other. So these proverbs show us that the opposite of hiding sin is owning up to it before others and turning away from it — and the opposite of hardening your heart is maintaining an attitude of the fear of God.
The early church father Ignatius wrote this: “For either let us fear the wrath to come, or let us love the grace which is present—either this or that; only be it ours to be found in Christ Jesus unto life which is life indeed. Apart from Him, let nothing dazzle you.”
I find that interesting — we can choose the motive of fear of judgment, or else we can choose the free pursuit of God and His grace. Both can potentially take us home, but I’d rather not have to live in God’s Plan B, which is using the reality of judgment to motivate me.
In the process of my wilderness journey, God may take many of the things I want away from me, at least in the moment. But He will never, ever, not even for one minute, take away what I need. He will never cut me off from Himself. He is always with me, every minute, until the end of the age.
I was really stirred watching the Paul Young sermon again, the one that inspired the name of this blog. It was wonderful, and God used it to bring about repentance in me. Time for a new path.
Here’s the passage Paul Young talked about. Genesis 32:24-32 (NASB):
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “ I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “ I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.
First he had to tell his real name: not Esau. (Jacob wanted the blessing that belonged to his older brother. He wanted to be the one accepted – his father didn’t love him like he loved Esau. So he had to put on someone else’s identity to get that blessing, that acceptance.) No – he had to relate to God according to who he really was. “My name is Deceiver.” (The name Jacob means “deceiver”, or “supplanter” — as the name James does.)
“I will not let go until you bless me.” What was the blessing? God had already put his hip out. Perhaps this was the blessing, the highest blessing God had to give to Jacob. A spiritual blessing — dependence on God, which is what Jacob’s limp symbolises. Probably not what Jacob expected to be blessed with, probably not what he was looking for!
And this is where God renames him “Israel”. So this is my story, too, in a way — but there’s more revelation of my new identity in Christ to be found if I’m up for a bit of a wrestling match.
And isn’t it interesting that Jacob won in the wrestling??