Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Big Promises September 14, 2012

Filed under: Jeremiah — Stephanie Rische @ 12:21 pm
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The night before our wedding reception, Daniel and I had a “toast time,” when everyone in attendance was invited to share a memory or a toast. Why have just a couple of toasts, we figured, when you can have twenty? (I should insert here that the champagne wasn’t proportional to the number of toasts. Just in case you were worried.)

Daniel and I took a turn too, seizing the opportunity to thank the people who had brought us to this place on the eve of saying our vows. I’m not sure I communicated everything I wanted to on account of all the blubbering and sniffling, but what I tried to say was thank you. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa. Thanks Papa Jack and Gramma Lo. For many things over the years, but right now, on this night especially, thank you for showing us what it looks like to make a big promise. And then keep it.

That summer of our wedding, both my parents and Daniel’s parents celebrated 35 years of marriage. We had seven of our eight grandparents still with us, still married to the same person they’d said “I do” to 50-plus years ago, just as we would the next day.

As I looked at the faces around me and started doing some mental calculations, I realized that between both our sets of parents and grandparents, we had almost 300 years of marriage represented in that room.

In that moment Daniel and I had no idea what the next 50 years would hold for us, what it would look like when we came face-to-face with “for worse,” “for poorer,” “in sickness.” But one thing we knew: by God’s grace, we came from a line of people who kept their promises.

And better yet, we had a God would never retract his promise from us, a God who would never renege on his covenant.

Just after the prophet Jeremiah received a message from the Lord that his beloved Jerusalem would fall, God followed up with another promise to his people—a promise of restoration.

I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land. This is what the Lord says: Just as I have brought all these calamities on them, so I will do all the good I have promised them.

—Jeremiah 32:40-42

 

As thankful as I am for our family legacy of kept promises, I’m even more thankful for God’s bigger vow. His everlasting vow.

He goes beyond “Till death do us part” and gives us a forever promise: I will never stop doing good for them. They will never leave me. He stands before us at an altar of sorts, assuring us that nothing will part us from him. Not even death.

 

{Note: I wore my mom’s wedding dress for the toast time, and Daniel wore his dad’s wedding suit.}

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

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The Mountain of Obedience January 27, 2012

Filed under: Genesis — Stephanie Rische @ 8:13 am
Tags: , ,

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

The story of God calling Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited son, Isaac, is one of the toughest accounts in the whole Bible for me to grapple with. Why would a good God ask his faithful follower to do something that seems so contrary to his nature…so downright cruel? Yes, there’s a graceful finish to the story, but Abraham didn’t know that when he and his beloved son started their hike up the mountain.

Recently, though, I read something in Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods that shed new light onto this story. According to Keller, in the cultural and religious backdrop of Abraham’s day, it was a given that every firstborn son belonged to God. Although these sons were to be bought back through sacrifice (Exodus 22:29; 34:20), they were still viewed as belonging to God—something of a down payment for the family’s sins. So in reality, Keller contends, God wasn’t asking Abraham to commit murder; he was asking him to lay down what was rightfully his.

Still, Abraham was left in a quandary. He believed God was holy, so he must hand over his son. Yet he also believed God was gracious and would keep his promises. How could both be true?

As I think about Abraham and Isaac making their way up the mountain on their sacrificial journey, I marvel at Abraham’s obedience. How was he able to put one foot in front of the other knowing what awaited him at the top? Keller captures Abraham’s faithfulness this way: “If he had not believed that he was in debt to a holy God, he would have been too angry to go. But if he had not also believed that God was a God of grace, he would have been too crushed and hopeless to go” (p. 11).

Keller goes on to point out that the biblical account offers a beautiful foreshadowing of grace: “He told his servants that ‘we will come back to you’ (Genesis 22:5). It is unlikely he had any specific idea of what God would do.” But he clung to the hope that God would somehow stay true to his character.

And he did just that. He provided a substitute—a ram in place of Abraham’s son.

This is, in the end, a beautiful account of eleventh-hour grace. Even so, it pales next to the ultimate story of sacrifice and grace: God’s own Son, laid on the altar by his Father. The substitute for our sin. Once and for all.