The Secret Ingredient
It is amazing to read how God works through ordinary humans to accomplish His purposes. The result of infusing the eternal God into mortals’ short uneven lives is often a spectacular success – or failure. Jesus said new wine needs a new wine skin, or else the old wineskin bursts, destroying both the wineskin and the wine.
But how is a new wineskin made; how does Yahweh produce new creatures, capable of containing truth and love, out of broken human beings? How does God give us a heart of flesh that will not be destroyed by His ferocious love and voracious truth? Sulphuric acid will eat its way through every substance but glass. The strongest metals dissolve beneath its relentless attack. Likewise, love and truth cannot live in anything but righteousness. Love and truth destroy everything but themselves. Righteousness alone can contain them.
While the righteousness of God’s people has always been of Him, the recipe for that transformation has a secret ingredient. When we meet the LORD we are told to live by faith. This seems like quite an adventure. We are told we must speak life and not death into the world. We are to listen for God’s voice and obey Him. Each believer is to love mercy, do justly and walk humbly. We are to be givers, just as our Father in heaven. We are to love each other fervently. But while all of these things are good and necessary for a new life, there is something else the LORD adds to bring depth to our character and understanding to our knowledge of the King of Jacob. It is a counterintuitive ingredient from a loving God that produces compassion, patience and faith.
Jesus alludes to this missing ingredient when he warns us,
“In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
Peter admonished, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” 1 Peter 4:12
When we think of Jacob, it is hard to imagine a man since Adam who has been closer to God. Jacob wrestled with Yahweh and beat him. The Living God of Israel visited Jacob and established a covenant with him that required nothing in return. The God of Israel promised to be with Him wherever he went and to bring him safely home from all his travels. In response, Jacob felt free to bargain with the LORD, demanding food and clothing, in addition to Yahweh’s presence, before he would call his creator his God.
But in Jacob’s life there was no shortage of sorrow. His beloved Rachel died in childbirth and his daughter was raped. Jacob believed his son, Joseph, had been torn apart and eaten by wild beasts. In fact, Israel refused to go to Egypt, fearing Yahweh would allow something even worse to befall him. In response, the LORD did not send comfort or reassurance but an even fiercer famine in order to drive the beloved of His soul into Egypt. Why?
Could it be that tribulation is as necessary to a new life as heat is to refining gold? The knowledge of God must be more than an intellectual assent. It must be kneaded into the depths of our heart with violence. Indeed, the love of God is shed abroad in every corner of our heart and the Kingdom must be taken with violence by violent men.
It should be no surprise that we are dealing with a violent God. Why did God create a thunderstorm? Why not limit the watering of the earth to intermittent gentle rains? Because it takes violence to sweep away what is and replace it with what is not. God speaks in the tempest.
Jesus comes as a hailstorm to sweep away our refuge of lies. Yahweh did not give Jesus a heart attack when He called Messiah to become sin for us. He scourged and crucified Him. The prospect of God’s plan was terrifying. Even the Savior of Israel asked to be spared, if it were possible. Will we do any less? The King of Jacob took His own medicine and He expects us to take it too.
Some believers deny that God intends for us to suffer, but a servant is not greater than his master. Others inflict suffering on themselves in order to achieve a nonhuman form of spirituality, but we can never replace the dealings of God with self medication. The person who created space and time is the only one who can give us exactly what we need at precisely the right moment.
Paul declares our tribulations are not to be compared with the result of God’s dealings with us. We must ask ourselves, is resurrection life worth dying for? There is no other way. Jesus endured the cross and explicitly declared we, too, must take up our cross and follow Him into eternal life.
The secret ingredient is suffering. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” The secret is this: the morning does not come without the night and the joy Yahweh purposes to give us does not come without weeping. Jesus spoke plainly when He said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
The King of Jacob has good news and bad news for you –you shall be comforted.