February 16, 2017

Genesis 28:20-22 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Once again I am struck by how extremely limited, deficient, really, a concept of God the patriarchs had. It kind of puts things into perspective to think about the size of any rock Jacob might have selected as a pillow. Some “pillar!” This is very reminiscent of the little roadside shrines that are still common in rural Japan (and are occasionally spotted even in big cities). Reading the book about the Japanese concept of God has really opened my eyes to this issue. Jacob had such a low image of God that he thought he could bargain with Him, but God blessed and used him anyway. This really shows how God meets us where we are, not leaving us there but leading us “onward and upward,” to use C. S. Lewis’ phrase. The thing is, it doesn’t matter where we are, God wants us to come to Him. Just where we are in the journey doesn’t matter as much as the direction we are headed. People who quibble over minor points of theology are missing the whole point. None of us get it all perfectly on this earth, (another point from C. S. Lewis) so rather than being hung up on having it right, we need to be focused on where we are headed and Who is going to get us there. Anything less, and we run the risk of His saying to us, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23)

This is a cautionary word to me as well. With my background it is all too easy for me to fall into the “I’m right and they’re not” mentality. I even had that attitude at a point when I was personally very far from God! Especially ministering in Japan I need to be careful not to look down on people for having a “tribal god” mentality. Many people are drawn to Jesus, but strict monotheism is too much of a stretch for them. Rather than lambaste them and drive them away, I need to make it clear that for Jesus to be your God, you have to join His tribe, and that is done by repentance, faith, and baptism. (Lest anyone try to split theological hairs with me, no, I don’t think baptism by itself saves anyone, nor is it requisite for salvation, as witness the thief on the cross. However, it is an extremely important rite of passage, out of the realm of darkness and death into God’s marvelous light and life.) I am to keep leading those in my care toward a higher understanding and appreciation of God, but not put them down for wherever they happen to be at the moment. After all, I’ve still got plenty of room to grow!

Father, thank You for this reminder. I pray that I would apply this truth effectively in leading more and more people into Your family, so that Your Holy Spirit can teach them more and more of just Who and what You are, and together we can be Your people indeed, for Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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