Posts Tagged ‘abraham’

Genesis 23:

 3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[a] He said, 4 “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

 5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city.

One of the things this past year has really been about for me is erasing the lines that I’ve drawn between me and other people.  All my life I think I’ve struggled to understand how to relate with people.

Maybe that’s common.  Maybe you’ve had seasons of struggle where you didn’t really know how you should relate with people.  Or you’ve wondered if you were being perceived the way you wanted to be.  Or maybe you just started to notice that there were other people around to consider.

I think one of my biggest struggles recently (meaning, for say the last 10 years?) has been achieving balance between isolation and immersion.  Somehow, I couldn’t really find balance between holy isolation, and merciful immersion.  I wanted to be above the darkness, above the grit, beyond the touch of hurt.  I thought that if I could just isolate myself from those things, from those elements of our life on this planet, that somehow the absence of those things would allow for a fuller relationship with God.  As though the filth, or hurt, or courseness of life would somehow block Him out.

Problem is, monasticism isn’t a healthy life.  Not for this guy anyways.  Too much time alone, too much time in the space between my ears, without any light from the outside, and inexplicably I become totally self-involved!  Self-centered.  A universe.  Maybe it’s a good idea for a fella who’s been immersed for a while to find a season of isolation to reconcentrate.  But a whole life?  Bad idea.

Makes me wonder what life might have been like for Abraham.  He doesn’t have the codified law or the community that Israel would develop over the centuries.  He doesn’t have the highly developed community or culture of the church that we know.

He was kind of alone.  Called by this God.  This mysterious, multi-named God.  He found a kindred heart in the deserts of Mamre in the King of Salem, Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God.  And maybe he had some history with his family’s generational faith.  But no books, no synagogue, no community.  He must have felt some isolation- some distance from the people groups around him.  Hagar the Egyptian.  The Canaanites he partnered with.  His neighbors at Mamre.

But that didn’t drive him away.  Here, at a time of mourning and pain, he is joined by peoples of a different heritage, peoples of a different religion and value-system.  And he shares his pain with them.  He shares his burdens with them.  And they share them too.  They feel his burdens.

They must have known him before this time- they are together in the gates of the city, collectively mourning Sarah’s death and loss.  When Abraham speaks to the people of the city, they address him as a “Prince” and treat him as one beloved.  They offer him a place to bury Sarah- something which I’m sure had cultural value and esteem attached to it.  You didn’t memorialize common folk.

In fact, the owner of the field that Abraham chose to bury his wife in offered to give it to him for nothing.  Twice.  And they certainly must have known Abraham to be a wealthy man.  He’d been living near there for decades.  Finally, Abraham squeezes a price out of the guy and gives him the money.  And the community is all around to witness it and vouch for it.

I have failed to live in community.  I have been ridiculously foolish and naive to think that I had to somehow preserve, purify and isolate myself from the world we live in so that God could have room to take pleasure in my life.  In fact, I wonder if it might have given God more pleasure had I been less concerned with my pharisaical purity and more interested in the relationships I was avoiding?  He is a community loving God.  He is himself a community- a Father, Son and Spirit.

He built community in the beginning, creating a man and a woman, and calling that complete and good. People in Jerusalem  and the surrounding communities knew John the Baptist to be disciplined, and more solitary, but they called Jesus a partier, and a lush.  Jesus.  Lush.  Crazy.

Abraham may have been a lot of things; a truth-bender, a traveler, a warrior, a corporate CEO, a prophet, but though he may have had an unshared faith, he certainly did not have an unshared life.  Tells me something;  God never told him to hide in the shadow, remain above this, avoid those things, or those people.  Abraham must have known that God likes friends.  God likes a party.  He must have known that God likes community.  From this passage in Genesis 23, it seems safe to say that Abraham traveled in broad social circles, hiding from no one, and taking every opportunity to know people better.  Perhaps that’s a lesson I should pay attention to.  We sure know that Jesus did.

Do you feel comfortable traveling in broad circles?  Do you feel challenged when mixing with people who hold different value-systems?  Or even play by different rules?  Are there times when you shouldn’t mix with different folks?  Or is it never right to be alienated from other people?

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Genesis 22

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

  “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

“Thank GOD you’re safe!  I’m going to kill you if you ever do that again.”  Ever heard that?  Maybe you’ve said it.

That moment when relief gives way to fury.  How could you put me through this???

But Abraham says the Lord Will Provide.  Seriously.

This story makes me ache.  It’s hard to understand sometimes how a Sovereign God can make a demand like this.  I can’t help but think that were I in Abraham’s place, I might be more inclined to the former statements than the latter.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy justifying God and His actions to people antagonistic to the church.  Truthfully though, there’s no need to justify God, and no way to really do it well, especially given our relatively finite resources.  He’s God.  And I know that.  So all I’m really doing is trying to justify myself.  Also not worth the energy.  And probably disproportionately more difficult given my propensity for being an ass.

Maybe Abraham already kind of got that.  Maybe he already understood that if God asks for a sacrifice, God gets a sacrifice.  And maybe Abraham was okay with giving up his son.  Maybe his commitment to God was just that strong.

But I doubt it.

More likely, I think Abraham had experienced enough of God to know that God would provide.  He had seen and heard enough of God to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God’s promises are impermeable promises, not mere pledges of effort and good intentions.  And God had promised a baby to an old man.  And He had promised a nation of nations from that one baby.  If that was going to be true, God surely would be able and faithful to do it through the fire, through the sacrifice.

More likely, Abraham had seen God preserve life with such a fervor that He simply knew that this would not be a loss of life but a gain.

But it’s still amazing.

And it’s all fair.  I owe God every single thing I love in my life.  All of it.  None of it is mine to grasp.

And it illumines something equally awesome:  God gives us all of these things!  All of these people!  Everything that we love is given to us by God, and done so regardless of our affections for Him.  Why?  Because our pleasure, our joy, gives God warm fuzzies.  Fo sho.

Hard to get our heads around, I’m sure.  We’re so solid on God the magnificent, and we the worm that it’s hard to imagine God being … blessed by us.  We surely cannot repay God the debt we owe simply for being created.  If we have received Jesus as Lord, and recognized his awesomeness, we owe God another kind of debt too.

But to think that by simply by living His way, under His authority, and being His image and person to His creation, we BRING GOD BLESSING and PLEASURE?!  We become the Kingdom of God on earth, here, near to us.

God created the world for His pleasure.  Not like it gives my oldest son pleasure to blow up GIJoes, or duct tape them to rockets.  Not like it gives me pleasure when they are obedient and well behaved in public.

More like the way I buzz when he comforts his younger brother tenderly.  Or when he says, “Here, like this!” to his other brother while showing him how to do something.  Where he encourages his sister, “That’s an great JOB! Papa, come see what Gail just did!”

That kind of pleasure.  Abraham must have known something.  It doesn’t say what.  But my money is on his experience with God as a LIFE repairer, not a LIFE mangler.  As a LIFE-lover, not a LIFE despiser.  Knowing God’s reliability and faithfulness as a PROMISE maker and fulfiller, not a liar, nor a fickle and arbitrary decision maker.

Trust God.  I must trust God because He’s God.  But I can also trust God because he’s shown himself to be trust-able.  We all have places where God has called us to trust him.  To believe that He is indeed good.  Maybe God has called you to something that is just impossible.

It is possible.  And it could be the only way to an amazing promise fulfilled.  If you have an impossible dream, there’s probably an impossible first step.

The Marines have a saying, a pledge, a firm commitment to each other individually, but also from the Corps to themselves: “Semper Fi”.  That’s short for Semper Fidelis, which is latin for always faithful.  

Genesis 20:

—1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.

—9 Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” 10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

I stayed up way too late last night, watching hockey highlights and silly SportsCenter™ top 10 this and thats on YouTube™.  When I told my wife how late I’d stayed up and what I’d been doing, she just shook her head and said “You have a problem.”  I laughed it off.  “Nah,” I said.  “You’re just looking too close.”  Back up, I should have said.  You’ll see.  I have LOTS of problems.

I used to smoke.  I used to smoke A LOT.  It’s not really so much that smoking is bad and “unChristian.”  Actually, I really struggle with saying that anything is “unChristian” just because so many people understand Christianity strictly as a moral code-  Lists of “do’s” and lists of “don’ts”.

No, the thing that bugged me is that I was addicted to something and in my heart that felt like an idol.  Something that stood between me and commitment to God.

I can’t say that I quit smoking, but I can say that I no longer smoke.  Think about that.

God shows himself committed to the process of making good on His promise in Genesis 3 to save us from the mess we’ve created.  No matter who He has to deal with.

Abraham is wandering around again.  That guy had some seriously itchy feet.  He’s in another kingdom now, in the Negev- the Saudi peninsula.  And 26 years (at least) after being run out of Egypt for lying to Pharaoh about the identity of his, he’s at his old tricks again.  He asks Sarah (his smokin’ hot 100 year old wife) to play along as though she were simply his sister rather than his wife.  Just this one last time, babe, lie for me.

Some bad habits never go all the way away.  They’re usually pretty tame.  But they don’t have to be.  But boy, once they take root, well, there’s a pretty good reason that saying applies.  Roots don’t come out all at once.  And sometimes when a little bit of the root is left in the ground, it comes back.  More mature.  More resilient.  More difficult to get out the next time you try.

For Abraham, he seems to have a penchant for “distorting the truth” my bible notes says.  He’s a big, fat, pants-on-fire, liar, liar, liar.  That’s what I say.  But he’s apparently something else.  To borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, he seems to be a little “judgy-Mcjudgerton.”

Why did he lie?  He was afraid.

Why was he afraid?  Because he was walking in the ‘hood at night, and he didn’t think God was protecting him there.  “There is no fear of God here,” he reasoned.  Hmm… so he’d just use a little… insurance.  God would understand.

Nope.  No, God did NOT understand.

When the king saw Sarah (and she was smokin’ hot), he took her while Abraham just quivered in his little lying boots.  And God struck back.  With mercy.

Eh?

With mercy.

God comes to the king in a dream, and says that he must not pursue Sarah as his own wife.  That she is in fact married.  And guess what?  The king is onboard.  Not only is he onboard, but he’s a little put out that Abraham lied about the whole thing.  And understandably so, because God’s mercy to the King and his household included shutting up all of the womens’ wombs.  Yikes.

Lesson?  God is a big boy.  He rolls slow in every ‘hood.  You don’t have to compensate, and you especially don’t have to compromise the values of God’s kingdom to do it.  God is working in every culture, in every city, in every human heart and mind.  Whether they necessarily recognize that is a different story.  Maybe Abraham’s job there had been to name God in that place.  But instead, he lied to avoid a confrontation.

Lesson next?  My lies affect people.  And this is the same principle, in reverse, as my blessing!  When I live God’s way for living, I am an outpost of God’s kingdom.  God’s kingdom spreads where I am when I am aligned with Him.

When I lie, when I misdirect, when I scheme, manage, and compensate… well, Jesus told Peter that he was channeling Satan.  He said “You do not have God’s Kingdom” in mind by this.  You don’t represent anything.  You are.

Lesson last?  You cannot wear God out.  You’d think that Abraham would be practically perfect after having God in his pocket for so long.  I mean, he friggin’ MET God.  And yet he’s still lying.  He’s still not believing (or understanding, maybe) that God is not confined.  He’s not looking the other way.  His arm is not too short.  He’s trying to compensate for God’s inabilities.

What does that mean?  It means that God will put up with me, with my failures, with my relapses.  Till I’m a hundred years old, if need be.  It means that God doesn’t exclude people from his plan because they’re flawed.  He doesn’t include people who used to be flawed.  He includes people who ARE STILL flawed.  And he even includes people who don’t know Him very well.  It is by His including people who don’t know him very well that those people get to know him very well.

Maybe the church could learn a lesson here.  We vet and vet and vet, and we judge, and we “pray” and we counsel and gossip to make sure that our leaders are qualified.  That our teachers are upstanding.  And to a degree that’s good.  But it also sometimes appears that we’re disqualifying people more than we are qualifying them.

People disqualify themselves just by virtue of being people.  It is God’s voice in us that qualifies us.  It is God’s hands in ours that qualifies us.  Look for God in places and you will find Him.  He’s already there, waiting for somebody to name and identify him.  Don’t shirk from confrontation when it’s time.  And don’t be afraid if you’re wrong, or if you’re weak.  You’ve always been that way, and you’ll always be that way until God’s work on you is done.

And that’s alright, because as long as God is working on you, you’re alive.  And as long as you’re alive, no matter how poorly you might be doing it, God is still working on you.  Even till you’re 100 years old, it would appear.  Or in Abraham’s case, you might not even really know it’s happening until you’re 75 years old.

God?  Will you still love me, when I’m 64?

Ye-up.

Peace.

 

 

 

Genesis 18

20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.[d] 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[e] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

 

If Tyre and Sidon were still here today… Had Sodom and Gomorrah heard this today…

Las Vegas.  Atlantic City.  Bangkok.  Amsterdam.  Rio De Janeiro.  Hollywood, LA.  All cities where people have gone looking for fulfillment.  Places where the depravity and dreamscape of man is allowed to ferment and root, and then to grow.  Places where the very best and the very worst of the human spirit and character are allowed to flourish.  Truthfully, anyplace people live together you’ll find small Hollywoods, two lane, one light  Sunset Strips, and quieter boardwalks, more diminutive red-light districts…  It’s not an exclusive property of the “big cities.”  It’s exclusive property of the entirety of the human race.  We all have these places in our hearts.

In places like this, the weeds and the wheat grow together.  In our hearts, the weeds and the wheat grow together too.  Why does God permit the weeds to survive?

Jesus is recorded as telling a story about this- he tells of a farmer who’s enemy goes and sows weeds among his fields.  When the seeds begin to grow the farmer’s workers come back and tell him that weeds are growing amongst the wheat, and choking it.  They volunteer to go through and pull the weeds from the field but the farmer says “no, no, NO!”  I can imagine the stillness that followed that as the workers all stopped to stare.  “You will pull the wheat up with the weeds and harm the wheat crop!  Wait until the harvest.”

In this chapter the famous wrath of God is the apparent main character.  God picks up a reputation for hellfire and destruction, for unconcerned judgement and gleeful destruction.  The legacy of Sodom and Gomorrah have been fueled the rejection of God.  But that notion is a weed amongst the wheat.

God does not relish the muting of his creation’s flourishing.  He does not gleefully or arbitrarily rain fury on a people.  And please- this is not about homosexuality.  In the name of all that is holy- do not confuse God’s judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah as a special dispensation of holy fury on homosexuality or homosexuals.

<Missing. the. point.>

There has been an “outcry”  against Sodom and Gomorrah.  Justice has been broken.  God’s cherished LIFE has been, or is being, trampled.  There has been a crying out by an oppressed or crushed population, and God hears that kind of crying.  He is not a knee-jerk God though.  He says “I must go down and see if it is as bad as I hear.”  He will go advocating for no one.  It’s practically going to act as the defendant’s lawyer!

He will go and make sure for himself this oppressor is not be unjustly accused!

I don’t think I ever really read that before this morning.  There is an outcry.  Somebody is saying “God CAN’T YOU HEAR US?!”  “We are being choked to DEATH by this city!”

And God says, “If that is true, I will fix it.  But I must give your oppressor their mercy too.  I must see and weigh it for myself.”  This is a second chance special if ever there was one.  This is a God who is fairness defined.  He is a passionately dispassionate judge.  We can ALWAYS count on God’s holiness.  Never bribed, never swayed, always and only truly objective.  Justice is a sure result of God’s judgement.

God, in a moment of introspection revealed, desires intimacy and connection with us.  He reveals his desire to commune with Abraham, and He shares that desire with me.  And with you.  Really, the whole bible is evidence of that desire, and not just evidence, but His first step towards that communion.  He tells Abraham what He is about to do, and why.

In Sodom, in Gomorrah, the strength of the weeds has become overbearing.  The light of the sun is daily being choked out, the fertility of the soil is nightly being stolen and sucked up by the weeds.  The cloud of brokenness is thick and obfuscating.  The people of Sodom and of Gomorrah simply can’t LIVE within that cloud of human depravity.  There is no spirit of LIFE there.  But up to this point, God has spared the weeds for the sake of the wheat.  But now, it appears that the wheat is dead.  So he comes with the fire to burn the field, to burn the seeds, to begin again.

But Abraham, experiencing the boldness of community with God, asks him- God?  If you find 50 strands of wheat, will you spare the field?  For 50 measly strands of wheat?

Yes.  I would show mercy to the whole field of weeds to allow the 50 strands of wheat to grow and produce grain.

Well- what if you only find 45 stands?  Would you burn the field?  With 45 stands of wheat?

No.  I will not burn the field if I find 45 stands.

10 strands of wheat.  For 10 strands of weak, unhealthy wheat, God preserves an entire field of weeds.

In real life, wheat never turns a weed into wheat.  But what if the weed was actually a mold that damaged the wheat?  And what if the mold was cureable by exposure to healthy wheat?

Really, I think that’s more the picture of God’s kingdom: that God planted a field of beautiful, thick and strong wheat.  And then the enemy came and spread a disease, a mold that consumed the stalk and the grain.  All of it.  But by introducing the perfect, healthy strand, in Jesus, the health actually became invasive.  Reclaiming the molded grain, reclaiming the molded stalks.  And it spread, just as the mold did, from stalk to stalk, from head to head.

And for the sake of the few recovered stalks, the field of weeds is preserved.  For the healthy grains?  Maybe.  Maybe for the sake of the weeds right next to the healthy grains?  Or the ones next to those, or those, or those.

He who has ears to listen….

This is a God who repairs what is broken.  This is a God who tolerates what is disgusting because among all of that is His beauty.  This is a God who desires communion.  This is a 2nd chance God.

 

Genesis 17

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him;

The bible is an amazing book.  It’s an amazing living thing.  It needs only space to breathe in your life and it can reveal so much.  It is like a portal through which God’s own Spirit can reach into your mind, into your feelings, into your being- and stir the water.

Or that’s what I’ve heard anyway.

What do you read every day?  I read the AP Newswire.  Everyday.  I don’t know why.  I guess I feel like the AP wire isn’t organized to suck me into something else.  When I visit CNN’s site, or even local news sites, marketing and design are involved to a much higher degree, attracting me with outrageous headlines, pretty colors and blinking lights.  Next thing you know I’m watching Joy Behar and her camera crew guffaw about something and buying cellulite creme.

But the AP, as informative as it is, has never given me it’s own life.  It’s never breathed into me and revealed something about who I am (except maybe my own disgusting depravity).

But the Bible- anytime I want, I can sit down, and lay back into these words, and God can take something that happened once upon a time, and show me how important it is to me.  How much it reflects something about who I am in his eyes.  Or how much it reflects who He is for me!

At the ripe age of 76 years old, God showed Abram a purpose for his dream.  God said “I will make you father to many people, to nations and kings.”  For decades the dream fermented and grew in Abram’s heart, and when the time was right (for God), the blossom popped.  But then it just bobbed there on the end of a very fragile limb.  For years.  For eleven years.

Then Sarai got an idea.  Blew off God’s timing in favor of her own.  After all she’d been faithful for this long- waiting any longer could be detrimental, right?  Well, things got goofy.  And when things happened the way Sarai wanted them to, she changed her mind about it.  She began to question the wisdom of the plan, and she got (as my Dutch-American mother-in-law might say) waaaaay woost (trans: bothered, upset).

But God, being a LIFE-lover, and a LIFE-repairer, being a humble, serving God, didn’t cast her into the darkness for her ambition.  He fixed it.

And now in chapter 17 he affirms this original covenant with Abram.  He reiterates it, explaining in depth how He will bind himself in covenant with His own creation.

And it says after all this, Abram fell down on his face.  And worshipped, right?  Nope.  You’d think.  But what does he do?  He splits a gusset laughing his skinny, wrinkled butt off.

“Bwahahahaha– excuse me– bwahahahahaha– God, I’m SO sorry– BWAAAAAAA!”

Uh?  Lightening anybody?  Scorched earth?  “God?  Are you sure?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just go with Ishmael?”

Nope.  Not the plan.  BUT-

But?  Yeah.  Biggest word in the Bible.  God waits for Abraham to settle down, and says, “Yes, BUT your wife Sarah will bear your a son… and as for Ishmael, I have heard you…”

This idea that God is the great and furious Oz, standing indignantly between the great columns of fire and raining hell down on insolent worms is just not in the bible’s illustration of God’s character.  He is a LIFE-loving, hell-FIXING, humble God.
He sits and waits while Abraham laughs and laughs, then says, YES, I will, and YES, I have heard you.  This is the God of Genesis, the God of the Bible.  This is the God who sent himself as the recipient of his own wrath rather than to overlook the sin.  And this is the God who waits for us while we laugh.

Genesis 14

1 At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar,[a] Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, 2 these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). 4 For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

 

That is a LOT of names.  No pun intended (if you’re not already aware of this, the heading in my Bible version for this passage is “Abram rescues Lot”).  Here’s a couple more for you (these are good biblical names, Moms)…

17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth. 
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Kinda dry, I know.  And frankly, when names start rolling by like that, my eyes get a little hazy.  So I decided to chart this out a little bit and try to clear it up.  Here goes:

So, Kedolaomer is a BIG-SHOT.  He’s a super-power king.  Amraphel, Arioch, and Tidal- they’re his… “GIRLS,” we’ll say.  Please- don’t read into that.  I just didn’t want to out and out call them his “b*tches.”  I’m racy, but not insensitive.  So anyways, these three, “the GIRLS” bring tribute (read: pay heavy taxes) to “BIG-SHOT” to keep him from totally destroying them.  

So they go out to pillage and subdue outlying people-groups, to great success.  And they’re headed back, and to pass the time, and monetize the return trip, they take out a couple more villages.

So, on the way back, some more of BIG-SHOT’S  “GIRLS” decide they’ve been slapped for the last time.  That would Bera, Birsha, Shinab, Shemeber, and then another “king”.  Unfortunately for them, though you might think a returning army is tired, and ready to go home, they’re also well-practiced, and totally battle hardened.  Slap. Slap.  Whadjou say?!

So Bera and Birsha run back to their rooms, and BIG-SHOT’S army chases them back and then totally trashes the place.  In the process, Lot (estranged nephew of “Abram, the Hebrew”) gets swept up and taken as a prize.  Well, one lucky fella escapes and is running out across the desert when he runs right into brother Abram’s camp.  

After hearing that his nephew has been taken as war-booty, Abram rounds up three of his BFF’s (who happen to be stinging from just being trounced by BIG-SHOT too, and probably already have their blood up a little bit), and over 300 men to go straighten this mess out.

And he does.  Our 75+ year old Abram cleans up.  I mean he chases BIG-SHOT out of the neighborhood, back to HIS house, and then OPENS-A-CAN on BIG-SHOT.  And leaves with all the booty that he just picked up on his tour of the city (where he whipped five or six new neighbors into the fold).  So I’m thinking Abram had himself a pretty good haul.

Okay.  Deep breath.  Still here?  Good.  So Abram returns with all that stuff, and all those people.  And a new character emerges: Melchizedek, king of Salem, and priest of the “Most High God.”  And there is party.

It says in the passage that Melchizedek brings out bread and wine.  It says that he offers a blessing on Abram for his heroism and his Jack Bauer-ly rendering of social injustice.  Then it says that Abram gave Melchizedek a full tenth of all that booty he’d just picked up.  AND it says that one of the two kings that had previously took off running decides to generously reward Abram for his un-wimpiness, which Abram declines (which by the way would be quite an affront, and would probably induce great perspiration and heavy huffing).  And then that’s it.  Chapter over.

What?  What the heck was that?  I started looking a little deeper, using footnotes and such, and uncovered some very interesting stuff.  SO MUCH stuff that I’ve decided to write a sequel.  Not to the bible- to my blog entry.

What if I told you that Melchizedek was actually Jesus?  That Abram met Jesus right there in the desert, A COUPLE THOUSANDS YEARS BEFORE JESUS IS BORN.  Okay.  Commercial break.  Hang out, and after these messages, we’ll be riiiiiiiiiight back.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Genesis 13

1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.
3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.

The voice of God can be a very elusive thing.  This voice which has been heard from mountaintop of Sinai, and rumbling like thunder on the road to Damascus has also been a whisper to a hiding man.  It has even been silent in a dark garden.

How do you perceive what God is speaking?  If I say that God is for me- if I say that he has a special purpose and design for me, my strengths, my life- why is it so hard to hear Him answer when I seek direction?

Yesterday’s reading had Abram, called by God to leave his home and all that he knows to follow him to a place He would show him.  It’s interesting to note a couple things here.

A bit about Abram’s background.  His father had 3 sons.  His father was actually of a mind to move from Ur (think southern Iraq) to Canaan (modern day Israel).  The scripture from yesterday mentions that one of Abram’s brothers died, leaving Dad (Terah; several generations descended from Shem, son of Noah) with Abram and brother.  Abram and brother marry, and Terah decides that it’s finally time to move on and begins the family’s move from Ur to Canaan.  This is a seriously long walk.


The text doesn’t say why Terah was motivated to move from Ur to Canaan.  But it does say that he never made it.  It says they set out for Canaan, but they stopped in Harran.  He stopped.  In Turkey.  It says they “settled” there and that’s where Terah died.  A few pages to the right, and God is telling Abram, Terah’s son to leave, and that he would be made into a great nation of peoples.  So Abram, like his father, decides to leave.

I wonder though; Maybe God had spoken also to Terah?  Maybe Terah had been on the same mission, but somehow, somewhere along the way he lost faith?  Lost sight?  Stopped hearing?  Got discouraged somehow?  But God perservered.  Across generations, God prevails.  He calls Abram to pickup this mission, to go to the right place so that the right things could happen in exactly the right way.

So Abram and Sarai, (and Lot) pull their tent stakes, and leave Harran, and set their gaze south, on Canaan, this far off land that Abram’s father spoke of, and this land that God was calling them towards.  In fact, he doesn’t just go to the edge of it and stop.  He walks all the way through the other side.

Maybe what he saw at first wasn’t good enough.  Maybe he wanted to see just how far this awesomeness could spread.  I don’t know.  It just says he traveled to the far edge of the land, and built an altar.  Maybe he just didn’t want to fall short like his father had.  So he made sure he traveled ALL the way there.  God lays out the welcome mat and says: “well?  here it is!  Whaddya think?”  And stops.  Puts down his stuff, builds an altar and worships the Lord.

But he didn’t stay.  Huh?

Nope, he pulls up his stakes again and starts to travel again.  To a better place for a herder.  So he stops there and builds another altar.  And he “called upon the name of the Lord.”  But guess what?

He didn’t stay.  Again.

This time he begins to travel across the desert, across the vast Saudi Arabian peninsula, towards the land of Egypt.

So his dad had the courage to leave home and begin the journey, but got comfortable halfway there and quit.  Now, Abram has the courage to finish the journey, but walks right past the welcome mat.  Twice.

So he ends up in Egypt, worried for his safety, scared of losing his wife.  Sounds pretty great, eh?  So he and she conspire, and begin to lie about who they are.  When Pharoah discovers all of this, guess what he does?  Turns their butts around and what?  Sends them back.

Hmm.  So what does God sound like again?

Maybe God doesn’t sound like comfort.  I know, that’s lame.  I don’t think comfort and obedience are exclusive- God had made Abram a wealthy man.  But he was still plagued by insecurity and discontent, wasn’t he?

It’s tough though.  I think I’ve often used my circumstances and the way the tides move to be the flesh on God’s hands in my life.  But maybe it takes more than perceiving the direction of the wind.  Maybe it takes something deeper.  God welcomed Abram home, yet the land was soon rocked with a famine.  I guess the promised land has it’s bad days too.

Maybe the contentment that is illumined by God’s hand and our obedience is satisfied by something more than simple comfort.  I must seek the whisper, rather than the thunder.  Abram did religious things, building altars everywhere he went.  He was obedient, mostly.  But it still seems like he missed some key points.

What does this say?  To me, I hear him saying not to cheat the depth of contentment by looking at comfort and confusing the two.  They are different, profoundly.  But if you need a 2nd chance?  Look no further than this God.  God laid it out for him.  God appeared to Abram.  More than once.  And he still messed up.  Yet he is Father Abraham!  His descendants outnumber the stars in the sky, and the sands on the shore.  God uses 2nd chance people.  It would appear God uses 3rd and 4th chance people too.

Why?  Because God is perfectly Holy.  He is infinitely merciful.  He also NEVER breaks a promise.  And he promised Eve and Adam in the Garden that he would make a way, send a savior, through her lineage.  Why?  Because he loves LIFE, and that is what he made all of this to be.  ALIVE.