Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Go to the Grain

When Jacob learned there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” . . . I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us . . . (Genesis 42:1-2).

While we yearn for resolution in some areas of life, we know that a certain amount of tension is a good thing, even necessary.

When I watch my kids climbing a rock wall at Atlanta Rocks, I like knowing that there is tension in the belay line. Tension means safety. Tension means the chances of broken limbs are greatly reduced.

When we’re trying to fly a kite at the beach I like feeling tension in the line. Tension means the kite is actually rising into the air. Too much slack and Daddy is seen running hard dragging a kite across the sand. This is neither fun nor flattering.

Once we embark on a life of faith it doesn’t take long to discover that following Jesus is filled with tensions. To pursue easy resolution is to lose something at the core of life with God. Somehow we have to learn to live with these tensions.

We are asked to believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved. And we are saved because Jesus claimed us and chose us. “You did not choose me, I chose you” (John 15:16). There is a tension between our believing and God’s choosing.

We are saved by grace alone and yet there will be a day of judgment in which we will give an account of what we have done (See Ephesians 2:1-10 and Matthew 25:31ff.).

The famine that gripped Egypt had far reaching impact. We’re hearing plenty these days about the global economy, but the same dynamics were at work in the ancient lands of Egypt and Canaan. “And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph” (Genesis 41:57). The sons of Jacob, however, were slow to act. Jacob had heard that there was food in Egypt. He confronted his sons: “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” A fatherly kick in the pants was needed to send them on their way. Thus the sons of Jacob went to Egypt to buy food and keep the family alive (Genesis 42:1-2).

Here is another tension in the life of faith. God provides for our needs. Paul confidently asserted that God will meet all our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). And yet there are times when we have to go to the grain. We stand around looking at each other when there is food to be had if we will only go and find it.

We are invited to live a life of trust, resting in the promises and providence of God. And yet there are times when the life of faith expresses itself in risky action. Standing around looking at each other is not an adequate way to live by faith. At the same time, our frantic efforts to gather and accumulate can be equally faithless.

God told the Hebrews in the wilderness to get up every day and gather their manna – but only what was needed for one day. The outer work of gathering and the inner work of trusting belong together.

Today may be a day when you need to go to the grain. God has provided for your needs. God will give you what you need to keep going and get through the barren times. But that provision may be in a place like Egypt. You’ll have to go seek out what God wants to give you. You’ll have to move from your comfortable place, take some risks, launch an expedition. Sometimes faith shows itself when you go to the grain.

What would it mean for you to go to the grain today?

We give you thanks, O God, for your faithful provision. And we ask for your help, that we might know how to seek what you so graciously will to give us. Teach us trust, and teach us to risk. Guide our steps today as we go to the grain, acting in faith in all things. Amen.

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