I have just been meditating on Jacob’s ‘Bethel experience’ in Genesis 28. It came at a time when he was at his lowest. He had just left all the treasures and prominence as the favorite of his wealthy family and is now running for his life from a jealous brother. He has nothing to live on while traveling to a land far away to marry a girl he does not know. He stops on his journey at evening, lays his head on a pillow of stone and is embarrassed by God’s grace. I don’t know that his face turned red but he was at least skeptical (v. 20). Why? Because God had just promised to give him a country’s worth of real estate, an innumerable number of great grandchildren, God’s special presence and blessing. He also told him that through him all families of the earth would receive God’s blessing. Not too shabby!
But what had Jacob done to receive this? Well, I can think of a couple things - he tricked his brother out of his inherited rights and played momma’s boy all his life. Not too much on his resume for impressing God. And that is just the point that came across to me in this story. What did Jacob merit? Disfavor. What did Jacob get? Favor . . . and not just favor but unnumbered, unfathomable favor – and that is embarrassing grace: getting so much for nothing that you are truly embarrassed.
This happened to me on a human level when I got married. My wife grew up in a church in MI. I had been to this church a few times during our dating relationship but only enough to struggle to remember a few of those long Slavic
names. And so the wedding comes. I have very little to recommend myself. I am taking away one of the most beautiful, loving, young ladies in the church. And yet they give us so, so much! Wedding shower after wedding shower flooded us with huge gifts. But then the day of the wedding came and everyone gave us money. Being from the sunny South, I had never experienced a wedding quite like one of these Northern weddings. My father in law paid for a dinner for the hundreds of wedding guests and I enjoyed feeling something like a movie-star to all these folks I did not even know. After it was all said and done I remember sitting down at the kitchen table with my dad in law counting the amount that was given to us – thousands of dollars of unmerited kindness! I was truly embarrassed in front of him. I had done nothing. Everything was because of my in laws and the kindness of their church. And here I was the grubby little son in law who was the beneficiary of all their kindness. I was truly embarrassed by grace.
As we have been working for the Lord watching Him plant Grace Baptist Church here in Queens I have experienced the same feeling. The repeated gracious ‘favors’ given by God through people who have been helping us from the beginning have been embarrassing: churches have been sending help, loving believers have joined us from the neighborhood, businessmen from everywhere have helped out in big and little ways, hundreds of praying people and supporting churches have co-labored with us. I am truly embarrassed as I think of the sum of these gifts – whether people, prayers or physical help. I am embarrassed because I know God has done it. This is nothing that I could have even dreamed up (vis. Jacob) much less deserved! I am embarrassed by Grace.
And this is true about all of us who truly know the Lord. As we look at passages like Ephesians 1 or Romans 8 we add up the blessings like Jacob did and either doubt or better yet – blush. How in the world could such a good God do all of these things for me! I don’t deserve ‘the least of His favors.’ Nope, Tim, you don’t. Just blush and thank God for all of His blessings.