By Paul Knudtson
John 1:29-41 – After John’s famous prologue to his gospel—in which he tells how “the Word” which was “with God, and was God” . . . “ became flesh and lived among us full of grace and truth”—the gospel writer goes on to tell how a number of people bear witness concerning Jesus’s true identity. They testify that Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” “Son of God,” “Rabbi,” and “Messiah.” Such titles invite us to “come and see” one who is faithful and true, someone whom we can trust.
I want to reflect with you on “faithfulness.” I’m not talking here about our faithfulness, but about what scripture says about God’s faithfulness to us. So, I’m not primarily thinking about our commitment to God, or our need to be more committed to God, but rather about what is infinitely more wondrous: God’s commitment to us.
“1I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” Then later in the Psalm and as a result of God’s help, he says,
“10I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and faithfulness from the great congregation. 11Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me, let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.”
Isaiah 49:1-6 – Description of a prophetic call from God to a specific purpose, to speak for God.
“1bThe LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. 2He made my mouth like a sharp sword.”
Then we hear of some disenchantment—prophetic ministry can surely be disappointing and discouraging! The prophet says in his discouragement,
“4But I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;–
but even in this state of despondency he can say,
“yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.”
The LORD encourages the prophet saying,
“6bI will give you as a light to the nations.”
Then in verse 8 we hear the prophet say,
“Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 In the opening of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul also stresses God’s faithfulness.
“4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given to you in Christ Jesus . . . 8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
- Knowing God is not merely about forming correct ideas about God, about arriving the correct theology, but involves knowing God in a relationship in which we experience God’s faithfulness and commitment to us, even the events and circumstances of our lives. The Bible is not simply a book of doctrine—though correct teachings are certainly an important part of it—the Bible consists to a large degree of narrative, the historical descriptions of people’s discovery of God over the course of their lifetimes. In the same way, we come to know God from day to day as we live our lives.
2. Genesis: Jacob returns home and to his brother Esau, from whom he has been estranged for 20 years. He is extremely nervous about how things will go when he returns home. But he faces this uncertain future reflecting on God’s goodness and faithfulness to him. As Jacob prepares in a day or two to meet Esau, and as he reflects on the ways in which during the past 20 years God has blessed him with family and wealth, he prays this prayer: “I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant” (Gen 32:10). “O LORD, please rescue me from the hand of my brother Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children” (32:11).
And, though Jacob is terrified, all goes well. We read, “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.” (33:4). God’s faithfulness and salvation have been weaved into the lives of deeply flawed people, people like Jacob and Esau.
- Faithfulness is our theme—though we often fail, God has made a commitment to us, expressed in Jesus Christ. The word “covenant” is a scriptural word for “binding promise,” and through Jesus God established a “new covenant with us,” has committed himself to us. The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion— is a way for us to be reminded of God’s commitment to us, of God’s faithfulness to us.
Through this meal:
- We remember God’s faithfulness expressed in the past when Christ gave himself, his own body and blood, for us, in order to redeem us from sin and death.
- In this meal we are also reminded how God is faithful to us today in providing us heavenly food, the bread of life, to sustain us day by day on our pilgrimage on earth.
- In this meal, we consider how God offers a foretaste of the feast to come and that God will be faithful to us until that day. As Paul writes to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 5: 24 – “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (5:24, NIV)
- It is indeed difficult to discern where and how God is at work in our lives or in the lives of loved ones. “Where is God in this?” “What is God up to?” “Does God even know me, let alone care?”
- It is not always easy to interpret our lives, to figure them out, to discern their meaning, to see what God is doing.
- There are many problems along the way—and times when it seems like things are going to turn out badly. And we know of bad things that have happened to others.
- Nevertheless, Scripture and even our own experience affirm how God can be trusted, how God remains faithful.
Our relationship to God does NOT depend on our faithfulness to Him, BUT on HIS faithfulness to us.