A Jewel of the Heart Cut in Stillness (Lent 17-2014)

There are a few scenes from the movie Les Miserables that are firmly planted in my mind.  Jean Valjean, the ex-convict who had served hard labor for stealing bread, has been arrested for breaking parole and stealing silver from the Bishop of Digne.  Brought before the Bishop, he expects retribution and to pay the price once again for stealing.  Instead, the Bishop shows him grace.  Fast-forward a few scenes, we see this same grace played out as Valjean begins to live as a man who knows he had been redeemed from the power of evil.  Over and over again, Valjean exhibits grace to others even while he is confronted with the law in the person of Inspector Javert whose obsession with the law simply cannot understand grace.  It’s a powerful movie and an even more powerful book.  The book’s author, Victor Hugo, wrote this about Les Miserables:

The book which the reader has under his eye at this moment is, from one end to the other, as a whole and in detail, whatever may be its intermittences, exceptions and faults, the march from evil to good, from the unjust to the just, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from rottenness to life, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God. Point of departure: matter; point of arrival: the soul. The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end.

Grace is hard to understand.  Most of us expect retribution.

Such is the case with Joseph’s brothers.  Genesis 37:2 This is the account of Jacob. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Where are you Brothers afraid of retributionThe brothers knew they had sold Joseph into slavery after hating him for giving their father Jacob a bad report.  They thought Joseph deserved it though.  After all, he was a snitch, an arrogant dreamer, and their daddy’s favorite son.  Where are you, sons of Jacob?  Selling your own brother, because of what?  Jealousy?

Fast-forward a few chapters (Genesis 45) and Joseph is powerful in Egypt.  He recognizes his brothers right away.  Eventually Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.  Where are you now, sons of Jacob?

The 10 brothers feared retribution. 

Joseph taught them grace.

Had Joseph not had the prison time, success and power could have gone to his head, and retribution would have been all too easy.

After all, Law is always easier than Grace.

But grace is a jewel of the heart, cut in stillness.  It is formed in the fire of time alone with God when human desires for retribution and self-vindication are purged and what’s left at the end is the kind of love God has for His enemies.

Where are you?  Are you still fearing retribution and punishment?  Or do you know this jewel of the heart called grace?

Be Still.  I AM with you.

Be Still.  I will avenge and restore.

Be Still and Know that I AM God.  I AM known by My love and I AM known for My grace.

Be Still and Know that I AM God.  I AM bringing you by the hand, through the valley of the shadow of retribution’s death and into the light and life of grace.

Questions for reflection:

  1.  Read Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  How does this show grace?
  2. Do you agree with the statement, “Law is always easier than Grace?”  Why or why not?
  3. Have you ever been in the painful place of stillness as God cuts the jewel of grace in your heart so that you will be able to truly love your enemies?  If yes, what has that been like?  If no, would you want to enter that painful place in order to learn grace?  Why or why not?

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on March 24, 2014

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