Jeffrey Zhou, a member at JCA, went to Emory University and is going to start at Reformed Theological Seminary in the spring. He runs Eden Learning, a tutoring center for middle school/high school students.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“When Brokenness Meets Absolute Sovereignty”
As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting.  He also prepared delicious food and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.”  His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.”  Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.”  As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”  But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.”  Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”  Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?”  Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.  Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high.  By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.”  Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
“Build your ark, the flood is coming.” That’s what I constantly heard in prayer during junior year of college. Little did I know that my family doesn’t look much different from Isaac’s. I saw my family as a typical Chinese-American family where we all be independent, only talking when the topic was money or grades. It wasn’t great, but I was comfortable. Then, my mother called saying that my father was having an affair for two years. I was shaken. I had just raised my head above the flood waters of my depression and now this. I couldn’t understand what God’s plan was, but God showed me that He could redeem human failure and paint a glorious picture. It wasn’t ideal, but for the first time, I was able to talk to my parents honestly. I opened up to my mother and counseled her through the story of God’s faithfulness in my depression. I was upset with my father, but I saw that the brokenness he exhibited is the same depravity God saves all of us from.
Isaac’s family was also seriously broken. Jacob and Rebekah deceived the other two members of the family. Isaac and Esau deliberately disobeyed God’s command. Each individual had rampant selfish desires fueling their actions. When Isaac and Esau realized that Jacob had just deceitfully taken the birthright, they had vastly different responses. Isaac began trembling violently because he realized that God’s hand was at work. He had a fear of God and submitted to God’s authority. Esau, on the other hand, would not let go of his desire for the birthright. He wanted to kill Jacob and refused to accept God’s authority. Hebrews 11:20 calls Isaac a “man of faith,” while Hebrews 12:16 labels Esau as “unholy.” We all have brokenness, but God beckons us to trust Him more than the hurt of our failures.
Broken people become desperate people. Brokenness leaves us hopeless and leaves us blind to a greater future that God has masterfully designed. When you’re faced with your brokenness, will you respond like Isaac—with a fear of God, or like Esau—holding onto your depravity?
Prayer: God, help us to see our brokenness for what it truly is. Show us a healthy fear of the Lord. Help us to have faith that You can redeem our most atrocious sins and use our stories to paint a picture of Your perfect glory. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 46
Lunch Break Study
Read: Daniel 4:28–37: All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar.  At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon,  and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”  While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you,  and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”  Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.  At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”  At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
Questions to Consider
- Why may have God put Nebuchadnezzar through this wilderness experience?
- What did Nebuchadnezzar realize after God had put him through that experience?
- What do we learn about the absolute sovereignty of God and the fallen human condition? How may you be holding onto your own desires instead of submitting to the Lord?
- Nebuchadnezzar was extremely prideful and impenitent. God had used Daniel to interpret the dreams, but Nebuchadnezzar failed to recognize that God is absolutely sovereign over man. Nebuchadnezzar was given a chance to repent, but failed to do so; thus, God placed him into this humbling experience.
- Nebuchadnezzar lost all that he believed he earned by his own work. God had taught him that his entire kingdom could be lost rapidly, and that all of its’ glory was in no part due to Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness. Nebuchadnezzar finally submitted and learned this lesson, proclaiming that nobody can question God’s work or command Him to do anything.
- The outstanding part of this is that God demonstrates his glory through the fallenness of a pagan, a direct opposer of God’s people. We learn that God can use anyone and anything, despite how broken or sinful it or he or she is. God is always in control and able to work all things for His good.
Proverbs 19:21, 23 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.  The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.”
Spend some time meditating on these two verses. Pray over brokenness that you saw today, and ask for God’s redeeming work to be done.