“He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:5-8)
The first covenant – the covenant of Abraham through Isaac and fulfilled in Jacob, who would become known as Israel – was a covenant based on the righteousness of God and His sovereignty. In Genesis 15, God establishes His initiated covenant with Abraham and in verse 6 we find that Abraham “believed the Lord and He [God] credited it to him as righteousness.” Abraham took God at His word. He placed his faith in God’s promise to make him into a great nation even though he and his wife were childless and past the point of child-bearing. God fulfilled His promise through Abraham’s son by Sarah, Isaac, after Sarah tried taking the promises of God into her own hands, to ultimately disastrous results that still resonate through history today.
This covenant was passed down through Isaac and found its fulfillment in Jacob, who would become known as Israel – a Hebrew word that means “wrestled with God.” Interestingly, the words of the angel who Jacob wrestled with were quite prophetic in many different ways: “Your name shall no longer be called, Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and prevailed.”
Do you see it? Not only has Jacob wrestled with men, including his family, his own reputation, and his brother, but he has wrestled with God Himself, and was endured. The verse doesn’t say that Jacob won, but that he endured the battle to the end. And this is the testimony of Jacob:
- You have wrestled with God and you will continue to wrestle with Him. Ultimately the battle is in the heart and mind as Israel wrestles with obedience and faithfulness to His word. The battle is the same for us to this day.
- You have wrestled and will wrestle with men. There will be struggle with your neighbor. There will be wars over the years because of your disobedience and abandonment of the covenant. But ultimately, it is repentance that will breed endurance and God Himself will enable that endurance to the fulfillment of His promise in Eden to crush the serpents head with His own sacrifice on Calvary.
- You have prevailed and will prevail to the end. You will endure to the end because God will enable and preserve His covenant and His word through Israel. He will give His commandments in stone through Moses to His chosen people. He will write those commandments on the fleshly hearts of His children to remind them to follow Him and let His word light their paths. Even when we are “a stubborn and rebellious generation”, He will preserve His covenant and keep His commandments.
This is why it is so important that we continue on a regular basis to dive deep into the word of God and not just read it, but fully comprehend and understand what it is God is speaking into our hearts. The goal of His word, His commandments, and His covenants are not to be a cosmic tyrant, but to be a loving Father guiding us along the path of righteousness for our betterment to His Kingdom glory. When He is glorified, we are blessed and lifted up and drawn closer to Him by His grace.
Just as the Psalmist was trying to explain, we must remember even today. There are parts of our history, our testimony, that are not savory. There are parts of our past where we have abandoned God and been disobedient and unfaithful to Him. But we must remember those times in order to learn from them and remember His word and how if we simply submit to His covenant and His will, then we will endure and prevail.
We must not repeat the “sins of our fathers” and repent of them. We must become humble and set aside our stubbornness and rebelliousness. We must cultivate a heart that is patient, steadfast, and faithful to His word. His Word and His promises will endure. His has proven Himself time and again throughout history. But if we are to endure, we must learn to submit to His word. For His mercies do endure. Forever.