God’s Faithfulness

‘God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel” Genesis 35:10

More than twenty years had passed since Jacob left his father and mother in fear for his life from his twin brother, Esau. In that time his experiences with his uncle, Laban, and his meeting with the Lord on the return journey prior to meeting Esau had made him a much changed man.

Before he left the promised land the Lord appeared to him at Bethel and affirmed that the covenant He had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob in all three aspects; land, descendants and a blessing to the nations (Genesis 28:13-14).

At a time when Jacob was unsettled in his relationship with Laban and began to fear him, the Lord called him back to his father, Isaac. Interestingly it was again fear that disposed Jacob to have a listening ear toward God. That remains a provocation for people to have an ear toward God still. At this time the Lord reminded Jacob of their previous meeting and Jacob’s vow (Genesis 28:20-22; 31:13).

The incident at Shechem (Genesis 34) again stirred up fear in Jacob which apparently disposed him again to have an ear toward the Lord. By commanding Jacob to return to Bethel, the Lord was again reminding him of his vow (Genesis 35:1).

Jacob obeyed all that the Lord said and again the Lord affirmed that the covenant that he had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob and his descendants. The message to Jacob and to us is that God is faithful to His word no matter how circumstances may appear.

The seal of this affirmation came from the Lord in the new name given to Jacob. First mention of the change of name was given by the Lord after the night long encounter Jacob had with Him (Genesis 32:28) but it was not applied until Jacob had fully returned, built an altar to the Lord and removed all association with false gods. At this time the Lord now called him Israel (Genesis 35:10) and affirmed the three key aspects of the covenant made with Abraham. This name became the name for all Israel’s descendants and remains so to this day and forevermore.

The name means, “Prince with God” and that is what Israel is and shall always be (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-37). The very name, Israel, shouts the faithfulness of God to His word.

Stresses in Relationships

“Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God.” Psalm 56:12

Some non-Christians are honest enough these days not to have their wedding in a church. They do not believe, as David did, that God exists and that they are accountable to Him for the vows they make. However, this will not remove their accountability before God. Some non-Christian couples choose a church wedding in which vows are made to a God in whom they do not believe.

The sad thing is that all too often Christians do not accept responsibility for the vows they have made. We may make many vows and promises throughout our lives but how we manage them will reveal our character. Beginning with our relationship to God in Jesus Christ, relationships are the most important things in life.

When (not ‘if’) stress comes into a relationship the character of each person in that relationship will be tested and revealed. Like a rolling giant ice-berg that which is beneath the surface will be exposed. This is something we work hard to avoid but that God works to achieve.

The ungodly may renege on their vows in order to seek respite from that stress. When a Christian does the same it is still an ungodly act, perhaps more so, because they have, in Christ, the resources to not only work through the problem but come out with an even stronger relationship.

When strife in a relationship appears it is not God’s intention that we break the relationship. Instead it is so that we can mend the underlying but previously hidden problem. This is true in all relationships be it marital, parental, family, business and in the church. We cannot mend a relationship when we don’t see the problem or we don’t want to see the problem.

It is one of the gracious actions of God that He intervenes to expose our relational difficulties because then He can begin to correct our thinking and ways. He will go to great lengths to achieve this, if necessary, but we will need to work with Him if He is to have any measure of success.

In this way crises reveal our character – what we are made of. Character is developed by making moral choices. In the case of relationships it is never morally right to run away from a relationship because of a problem. The problem will always go with us to other relationships.

The Bible shows us the way to put things right and God is always willing and able to cleanse us and renew us in our minds. Wrong thinking produces wrong behaviour which in turn produces problems in relationships. God is working in us to correct our relational problems but we must work with Him. He will not change us against our will.

The most vital and important relationship is our relationship to Jesus Christ. All other relationships have their origin and foundation in that one.