Flawed, Failed & Faulty: Who Does God Use?
This year I’ve decided to take time on Sunday afternoons to read larger chunks of the Scripture, around 15 chapters at a time, in order to help me continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of the grand redemptive story of the Bible. Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is the metanarrative that describes God creating and calling a people to Himself despite their continual and ongoing sin and failure with the greatest cost being paid by God Himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ. I need to be reminded of this larger narrative of Scripture, so thus, I am trying to “read big.” Additionally, I am spending more personal devotional time working more slowly through Matthew right now.
Today I read Genesis 12-29 and spent a decent bit of time flipping back and forth between the chapters to try to understand names, places, and who is related to who (it gets complicated when half-siblings and first cousins are getting married and having children. Casey found a neat infographic outlining the genealogy of Jesus that can be found here.). I also studied Matthew 1:1-17, specifically v. 2. These verses are one of the two genealogies of Jesus Christ (the other is in Luke 3:23-38). I admit, like I am assuming some of you will, that understanding the importance of genealogies does not come easy. The first 17 verses of the New Testament list a bunch of names that I cannot say and cannot find in the Bible unless I do a Google search. Maybe you are like me at struggling through these verses, but my time this afternoon in Genesis helped offer me a few small insights, mainly surrounding the people God decides to use for His glory, that I’d like to share with you.
Matthew 1:2 says, “Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.” Here are three of most foundational men in Judeo-Christian history. Matthew 8:11 tells us that many will come and recline at the table in the kingdom of heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those are the only three men listed. In Genesis 12:1-3, God says to Abraham,
God makes a further covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15, 17:1-8, and 22:15-18. He gives similar promises to Isaac in Genesis 26:2-5, 24. Furthermore, Jacob gets the same from God in Genesis 28:13-15. God promises to use all of these men and their offspring in incredible ways for the sake of God’s glory and the spread of His Kingdom, but I want to look a little closer at some of the characteristics of these three great men and a few of the other people present in the genealogy that God uses.
Thabiti Anyabwile says about the genealogy, “From Abraham to Joseph, this is a chronicle of the flawed, failed, and faulty.” In the genealogy, there are murderers, thieves, beggars, prostitutes, and illegitimate children. God uses the brokenness of some of the people in amazing ways while others turn to evil and yet God still uses them to bring the Messiah. Nothing stops God’s fulfillment of His promises. Specifically, when we look at Abraham, we see someone who is instructed to essentially be homeless and a wanderer. Both Abraham and his son Isaac are men afraid to claim their wives at some point in their lives for fear of being put to death (Gen. 12, 20, 26). Abraham even does it twice. This does not seem to be the best example of manhood.
In the culture of the time and place, the firstborn son was of the most importance. He inherited and received most everything important from his father. However, God chooses to use two second born sons: Isaac and Jacob. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, are both barren for most of their lives (Gen. 16:1-2; 25:21). Isaac is finally promised and then born to Abraham and Sarah when he is at least 100 years old and Sarah is at least 90 years old (Gen. 17:17). Abraham took Sarah’s servant, Hagar, and has a child named Ishmael with her (Gen. 16:15).
Isaac favored his firstborn son, Esau, over Jacob (Gen. 25:28). Jacob cunningly convinces his elder brother Esau to sell him his birthright (Gen. 25:29-34). Then, when Isaac is about to die, Jacob deceives and lies to Isaac and steals Esau’s blessing (Gen. 27). Jacob’s name literally translates to “he cheats” (Gen. 27:35-36). Jacob ends up marrying two different women, Rachel and Leah, but loves Rachel more.
All in all, these three men are far from perfect. They are in many ways holy and magnificent men, but in other ways, they are broken and messed up sinners like you and me. I write this to encourage myself and hopefully you that God can use our brokenness, sin, faults, and shortcomings to bring glory to His name. This does not mean that we should be okay walking in sin, but it does show that God is greater than our struggles and that He is faithful in the midst of our sin. Nothing is beyond God’s reach. He used dysfunctional and broken people and families to bring about the line of Christ. The gospel is truly for all people and God has and will continue to use all kinds of people to spread His fame and glory. May we join Him in that endeavor.