Posts Tagged ‘Blessing’

Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man, 
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
     and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
     which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
      Whatever he does prospers. 
Not so the wicked!
     They are like chaff 
     that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
     nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, 
     but the way of the wicked will perish. 

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
or sit in the seat of mockers-

Father, God;  You have established a way that is good.  You have designed and created a way that gives LIFE, and does not rob it.  Your way of life breathes peace, relief and freedom.  Anything else breeds contempt, jealousy, lust, insecurity- in short, not-life.  Death.  Father I desire to LIVE.  Keep me from temptation and deliver me from evil, that I might LIVE, and not be dead.  

***

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

Father, turn my heart to your words.  You are plainly visible to the one who looks in to see you.  Remove my agendas.  Remove my ambitions.  Remove all the veils that keep me from experiencing you in your words.  I desire to know your language.  I desire to lean on you, and know you as ‘papa’, not just “Father.”  

***

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Almighty God; I desire to be the person you made me to be.  I desire to do what you purposed me to do!  You have planted me near your stream- given me your word.  Now I draw near to drink up your word.  I ask that you use it to nourish me, and grow me.  Make me healthy on the inside.  Make my leaves green on the outside, looking beautiful, and spreading health.  Make my fruit heavy and prolific.  May I produce the fruits that you have planted me to produce.  You have grafted me into your tree- make me a fountain of your fruit. 

Help me, God, to trust in your timing.  I desire fruit now.  I ask you for fruit now.  But I must wait for you to open the buds, to feed the blossoms.  To bring the bees and add to the pollens, that the fruit is perfect and good.  God, feed me, rest me, pollinate me, and harvest the fruit!

***

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Righteous God- no one who plants desires to see waste among His produce.  God I plead that my life would be one that is fruitful in a satisfying way.  I thank you that you have created a path in Jesus for me to be acceptable in your presence.  May I serve as a light and a path, that those around me can come to stand in the judgement along with Jesus.  

Teach me to see wickedness in my life, and to be happy and satisfied to watch it blow away, separating itself from the good things of my life.  Teach me to hand all things up to you, and allow you to separate the fruit you desire to keep from that which you do not.  

***

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Holy God, you watch over the righteous and the wicked.  Thank you for your wisdom, care and provision.  Thank you God for the promises you have made, and kept to restore the ways of LIFE that you designed in the beginning.  Thank you God that You care for that which You have made and that you are destroying wickedness and death, and each heartbeat brings us closer to the day when the final victory is won.  Amen.

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Genesis 49

1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; 
listen to your father Israel.

Michael Simpson wrote a book some time back, an amazing, mind-altering book, called Permission Evangelism.  I’ve had the good fortune to meet him and talk with him a few times, when he’s visited my homechurch, and I continue to be amazed at how God has revealed himself to Michael, and at how Michael has been able to share that experience into other people’s lives- into their experiences.

Last time Michael was in town, he preached an awesome message of God the Father’s love and affection for us.  He gave a testimony about his journey towards discovering and accepting that love.  He had this crazy idea that God loves us through other people.  That our experience of some one person’s love for us is actually the experience of being loved by God, Himself.

He used a great image to help illustrate the concept:  He said God looks into this mirror- He is love, and His reflection, the image of his love, is in this mirror.  Imagine that God has shattered this mirror now- it’s in billions of little bits, each little shard showing a small size view of the whole- the image of God’s love.  And He puts that little shard in each person- each act of love you experience from somebody is a shard- a piece of God’s love for you.

Or at least that’s what I remember him saying.  Whether he said it exactly that way or not- the image is embedded in me now.

When Israel/Jacob gathers his boys around his bed, he delivers this massive, epic blessing(slash)curse.  But what he’s doing is speaking into his son’s lives his experience of God.  He’s handing over the shards to each boy.  Every little “prediction” is somehow a reflection of Jacob’s experience of life with God.  God has shown him at some point in his own life some aspect of himself in creation, and Jacob’s sharing that.  In other words, we see in his blessings the experience of Jacob with God- we see who God has been to Jacob.

In Reuben, God gives evidence of strength.  God gives.  That stands to be said.  And Reuben lives with excellence in character and power.  But we also see how rebellion is rewarded, when the strength and excellence are removed.  Jacob is showing that God is inclined towards blessing first- offering good things first.  When we take those gifts for granted, when we abuse the gifts, then they are subject to review, or retraction.  But God starts with the blessing.

Simeon and Levi are case studies in wisdom and self-control.  Or the lack of it.  God has shown Jacob that reaction, anger and violence are not strength.  God does not value strength as the world understands strength.  God does not value the short-sightedness of quick reactions.  

With Judah, again, Jacob repeats the forceful insistence of God’s blessing!  Judah has kept favor in his life, and the blessings of God are about to open up on him and his family.  Jacob has experienced this same kind of overwhelming flood.  The intensity of God’s affection and the abundance of his pantry is unrivaled, and it is poured out on us.  

There is also in this blessing the subtle reminder of the very first promise of God- to send a deliverer, a conquerer, a king who will not disappoint.

In Zebulon, Jacob tells of God’s harbor.  He speaks of how God has been a safe place to dwell.  A place to hide.  A place to regroup and rehabilitate.

Issachar gains insight from Jacob’s experience of life with God.  It has been difficult.  There have been moments of great effort, of confusion, of not being in control.  But though it has been difficult, it has always been a good place, and worth the work.

Dan.  For Dan, Jacob has a reminder- God’s justice doesn’t always come from the front.  Sometimes you don’t see it coming.  But it’s there.  And if you are riding on something other than the righteousness of God, sometimes the Justice that comes can cause the rider to fall.

In Gad, Jacob has experienced a sort of redemption.  Jacob tells Gad that sometimes it seems like a loss, sometimes it seems like a storm that will sweep you away.  But as it is written, joy comes in the morning.  There will be times in your life, in your experience when the onslaught seems to overwhelm, but you will revive your strength, you will arise again.  You will not be beaten.

Jacob has experienced richness and pleasure in God.  It’s interesting to me that Asher’s blessing isn’t so much to experience that richness, but rather, he will serve it to others.  A blessing in it’s own right.  Is it not gratifying to be a source of immense pleasure for somebody else?  That is the blessing Asher receives, and it speaks to Jacob’s experience of pleasing God, and being a source of pleasure!

Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fauns.  What an image!  Jacob is drawing on the experience he has had of being at peace with his creator within His creation.  Beautiful and resplendent!  Serene and prolific.  There is freedom, and LIFE.  And it grows.  It expands.  It continues.

And Joseph- the blessings for Joseph are almost too overwhelming.  He is a climbing vine, a source of envy for others, strong despite attack from outside, calm, not intimidated.  He is in the arms of the Mighty One, He is within the crook of the Greatest Shepherd, and his foot rests upon the Rock of God.  He is the recipient of all the blessings of God, “Blessing of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb.”  I’m pretty sure that’s about everything.

One cannot give a blessing that he has not himself experienced.  How could he describe it?  How could be have the strength and wherewithal to offer it, had he no grasp of it himself?

These blessings show Jacob’s experience with God.  Jacob’s experience with God gives us insight into God’s character.

And God’s character has not diminished or changed since Jacob’s lifetime.  All the blessings above are still available, still a part of God’s cornucopia.  He paints in your life with the exact same palette of colors.  The same selection of brushes.  And the Artists desires to paint the same sorts of paintings.  In our lives.  

What are the shards in your experience?  How have you been loved?  How many shards of that first image of love have you looked into?

Genesis 48

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
   “May the God before whom my fathers 
  
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,

the God who has been my shepherd 
  
all my life to this day,

16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm 
  
   —may he bless these boys.

May they be called by my name 
  
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, 
and may they increase greatly 
  
on the earth.”

Genesis is a beginning.  Literally.  Genesis opens with the phrase “In the beginning,” or “At first.”  But as is often the case the beginning is … just the first thing in a series of many things.  So Genesis is a beginning, and it’s a journey- a middle.

We’ve met lots of people- Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah, Abram, Sarai, Lot, Lot’s daughters, Isaac, Isaac’s servant, Jacob, Esau, Laban, Rachel, Leah, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, (and Tamar), Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin.  We’ve met Potipher, the Egyptian Royal captain, and his cougar-wife.  We’ve met a royal baker, and a royal cup-bearer.  Pharaoh himself.  But he’s not the first king- we’ve also met the mysterious Malchizekek.

But we’ve also met somebody else.  Creator God, who speaks and creates, and hovers over unformed things.  Creator God who builds and creates and proliferates LIFE.  God, who walks in the garden in the cool of the afternoon relishing what He finds to be very good.  An all-powerful God who creates a community to spend time with, and enjoy.  An all powerful God who makes us free to love Him back, or … not.

The God who sews garments to cover up something He made good, because of the fear that sin created.  The God who, when disobeyed, rather than retaliate and answer in wrath, promises to set things right, and keeps things from getting any worse.  The angel with the sword flashing back and forth between us and the Garden of Eden.

We meet his presence in angels- messengers.  Messengers who come to break through the barriers and communicate God’s promises, over and over.  Despite rebellion.  Despite disbelief.

And we meet God, a shepherd.

As Israel lays in his bed, he places himself in the role of a sheep- and tells Joseph that God has been his shepherd.

After all the things Israel has experienced, after all the different ways He has experienced God, and God’s presence in his life, this is how he describes God.  A shepherd.

The lasting words of God reverberate in that description: I will be with you.

God is introducing himself to you, right now, today.  Not as somebody who will shepherd you.  But as somebody who always has.  God is a shepherd.  He is guiding you to safe places to lie down.  He is choosing ripe, green grass for you.  He finds a place where you can wade in the water and drink without fear of predators, without fear of drowning.  You may wander out of sight, and get lost, get stuck, get tired.  But he is the Good Shepherd and He will come out, leaving the flock to find you.  You will hear his voice, and call to him, and he will pull you from the mud, pull you from the briar- and return you on his shoulders to where you are safe.

This is the God of Genesis.  He’s a fixer.  He’s a lookout.  He’s a shepherd.

Genesis 41:

1 When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream:


57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

Genesis.  In the beginning.  Genesis is all about beginnings- some good, some terrible.  One of the beginnings that Genesis confronts is the beginning of evil in the creation.  The beginnings of trauma, murder, stealing, aggression.  The beginning of what I like to call “the suck.”

But there is another kind of beginning too.  There is the beginning of salvation.  The beginning of the promise.  The promise I’m referring to is found in Genesis 3, when God comes to see Adam and Eve, and discovers their infidelity to Him.  He points to the serpent, in reproach, and promises it that He (God) would have the last word in the matter.

Then there’s the promise to Adam and Eve that they will pay dearly for what they have done- that pain will increase, toil in labor will increase- and finally, that they will not be allowed to reach out to the Tree of Eternal Life, to live forever in this broken way, with no hope.

Now we are an unknown number of years beyond these beginnings.  Joseph, the last born son of Isaac, has been in a dungeon for two years, in an Egyptian city, far from his home.  His brothers had sold him into slavery, and he ended up in the service of a captain of the Egyptian Royal guard.  But he was framed by the captain’s wife, who was angry because Joseph would not disgrace himself by sleeping with his master’s wife.

When Joseph sees two fellow inmates looking distressed because of dreams they had each had, he listens to their dreams, interpreting them and explaining them to them.  When the dreams’ visions unfold in real-life drama, Joseph is proven true.  But the dead don’t speak, and the freed go on living, so Joseph’s ability remains in the dark of the dungeon.  Until Pharaoh has a dream that nobody can explain.

Then the freed remember their chains and the day they were broken, and Joseph is quickly brought up from his dungeon.

When Joseph is finally before the Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh has explained to Joseph why he is there, Joseph denies the abilities that have been ascribed to him, saying,

“I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

He then proceeds to explain to Pharaoh what God is revealing to him in these dreams- that seven years of astonishing prosperity were coming to Egypt, but that they would be quickly forgotten during the seven years of agonizing and desperate famine that would immediately follow.

And then he begins to ad-lib a little.  Joseph takes the opportunity to advise Pharaoh on a game plan.  Tax the abundance heavily, and put it into savings for the years of want.  What government can say no to a plan like that?

Just kidding.

Anyways.

So God is bringing a famine to Egypt?  That’s part of the plan?  This is not congruent to how I understand mercy, grace, or love.  Why does God want to bring suffering?  What kind of God allows that?

Here’s another question: If God is bringing this suffering, why then is He warning Egypt about it, and then offering a way to mitigate the pain?  Can’t really seem to decide which way He wants to go with this.

Jesus faced a similar argument in his ministry too.  People objected to this notion that he might be the Son of God.  They cringed every time he told some whore or diseased bum, or a lowlife roman-sellout-”jew” that he or she was “forgiven.”  Like a man has the authority to say that.  But then they would see him cast out “demons” and healing people with illnesses and the such.  They said “He casts out demons by the power of the devil!”

Wha?  He what?

To this Jesus answered, “a house divided amongst itself will not stand,” implying that it was really kind of stupid to say that (which it was).

Here’s my thought: God doesn’t “bring” suffering to Egypt to entertain Himself.  Watching all the little Egyptians scramble around looking for food, and dying is not some kind of God-tube “Survivor: Divine Island” sick entertainment.

Famine is the undeniable evidence of how many ways we are broken.  It is the unstoppable evidence of how badly messed up creation is as a result of our pride and greed and selfish ambition.  It is the fruit and wage of sin.  I.e. it’s all our fault.

God steps in though- desiring to save, feeling compassion, wishing to preserve.  He sends a servant with discernment.

How can I say that?  How can compassion exist when a famine is happening?  One of my foundational assumptions is that God is Holy.  A Holy God cannot be divided- or conflicted.  And He is a creator.  He created everything out of an abundance of desire for community.

When Adam and Eve broke that communion, His retaliation came in the form of making better clothes for them than they could make for themselves.  His retaliation came in the form of preserving them from living eternally in that broken state.  His retaliation came in the form of cursing the tempter and promising that the curse would not be permanent.

These promises must be kept by a Holy God.

In the Biblical story, mankind is always the one who instigates evil.  He ignores the advice of God in favor of the shady promises of a serpent.  He kills out of jealousy.  He multiplies evil on top of evil until the whole of society is such an abomination that nothing good can be said about it at all.  He uses his creativity and ambition to build something for himself that he can take pride in, that he can rely on, and hope in.  To look to for strength.

In the Biblical story, God is always the one with Hope for a better future.  He’s the one that tells the tempter that the curse will be only for a time.  He resets what he has made and restarts society- giving it a second chance with a new family of his careful choosing.  He distracts humanity, causing them to cease their building (at least for awhile), and hopefully turning their eyes back to God for their strength and solace.

And today, God speaks through Joseph, warning Pharaoh that disaster is ahead.

Maybe you’ve been suffering for awhile.  I know that I have had seasons that felt like dungeons.  I have had seasons that felt like a trap.  Like handcuffs.  Like maybe, I was being punished.

But maybe a time is coming where you will stand before a king, and proclaim saving news to him.

Maybe a time is coming where you will share something with somebody that they have been trying desperately to see on their own, and have had no fortune to find.  Until you.

Maybe you would never have been there, not in a million years, if your brother hadn’t sold you out.  If somebody who you’d tried to serve graciously hadn’t framed you, and made you look like a horrible monster.  If you’d not simply spoken truthfully to somebody who had no intention of returning the favor.  Maybe, you had to experience the famine before the feast so that somebody else would never know the famine at all.

Genesis 36

1This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

 2 Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite— 3 also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

40These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions:

   Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.

   This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.

“Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes,
Baby, even the losers, keep a little bit of pride, they get lucky sometimes,”

I don’t think there is a lot to be said here.  I considered not writing a post at all about this chapter.  But then a thought occurred to me.  “This guy was the loser in the deal.  And he still gets a spot in the Bible.”  Why?

So, if you haven’t been around lately, Esau is the elder brother in a odd situation.  He is a twin.  Usually, the elder brother is the chief punk in his house.  But not this one.

During Rebekah’s pregnancy, she cried out to God because her pregnancy was so uncomfortable.  And God replied, telling her that she was having trouble because she had twin boys inside of her, and they were struggling with each other.

In fact, God also told her that the younger would be greater than the older.  That there would always be contention between the brothers. And that oddly, the older would serve the younger.

I wonder if she considered that often as the boys grew.  She must have.  Esau, as a young man must have put the weight on first, gotten the hair on his arms and legs first.  He’d have likely been 1st string on the Varsity football team.  He was the big, rugged guy.

Jacob- well.  Jacob did home econ.  He liked to cook, preferred sitting by the fire, and long talks with with his mother.  He was… dainty, fair skinned.  And mouthy.  Surely there was a mistake made.  She must have misunderstood what God meant.  Hormones and stuff.  Jacob?  Waterboy material.  Smart, sure.  But overpowering Esau?  Controlling Esau?  Nah.

And yet.  It happens.  Rebekah sees to it that it happens.  And it goes.  But not well.  So Jacob runs.  Far.  And for a long time.

He grows wealthy, establishes a strong and prosperous family.  He is blessed by God, and in time, God comes to change his name.  Israel.

And all along, right in the middle of all that, Esau.  Esau is still here.  Still chugging along.  And not doing so bad for himself either.  Just has this nasty little curse hanging over him.  Screwed over by his brother, and his parents resent him some, because in his anger, he married with the local girls, none of whom were especially impressive to Isaac or Rebekah.

Yet here he is, in the biblical record, with a burgeoning family.

God has actually blessed him in his lifetime.  Kinda like God actually blessed Ishmael in his lifetime.  Why?

Because He is a life lover, and a promise keeper.  And he told some people he would make whole nations out of their families.  A promise like that is potent.  It doesn’t die in the frost.  It survives.  It springs through crusty ground.  It is drought tolerant, heat hardy, and, well, it just grows.  God promised Abraham that a nation would come through his son.  From his own body.  And God blessed Hagar and Ishmael because, well, they were connected to that promise, by hook or by crook.  And so is Esau.  Yeah, he was impetuous with things.  Yes he got robbed.  And yes he did not handle it especially well.  But there’s another “yes” to be considered.  Yes, he is a part of Abraham’s bloodline.  And Isaac’s.  And that’s not nothing.

God is generous.  God keeps his word.  If you are in Jesus bloodline, if you are walking in Jesus’ footsteps, living in two planes- two realities, the Kingdom of this world, AND the present Kingdom of Heaven- if you are part of Jesus’ family heritage, then there can be no question.  God has raised you up with Jesus, because you are tied to Him.  God will be generous to you, regardless of how you screwed up your birthright, without regard to how you might have valued soup over your place as an image bearer of your creator.  God is generous to you without regard to your anger management issues.  God is generous to YOU with only the very highest regard to your unbreakable connection with Jesus.   As He wills to bless Jesus, you too will be blessed.  And as He blessed Jesus to do good works, peeling back the veil of God’s nearness and His kingdom’s nearness, He will move in you, stirring your spirit to compassion, goodness, mercy, gentleness, peace, and patience, placing his hand over your hand on the curtain between this world and God’s world, and aiding you as you turn it back to reveal His ways, right here, right now.

Genesis 26

1 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring[a] all nations on earth will be blessed,[b] 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

7… he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him.

27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”
28 They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the LORD.”
 30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank.

My habit has been to observe and study more the lives of the people in Scripture.  Probably nothing really weird about that; I’m a person, and they’re people.  Plenty to relate to.  But I have been convicted that I need to gain more in the way of knowing who God is.  That the bible, for as much as it reveals about who we are, is far more valuable for what it reveals about who God is.  And I’ll be frank- I have been surprised at how pleasing and satisfying it has been for me to really examine and discover how remarkable God’s character is!  It shouldn’t- people have told me.  But now I’m seeing for myself how stunning and kind He is.

Three traits in particular have really stood out to me: He is indeed Holy; He demands justice. He demands payment for sin, and cannot abide with it.  But a flipside of that same demand for justice is that He is himself totally just.  So if He makes a promise, He is absolutely trustworthy to keep that promise.  He is determined to see it done.

He is a LIFE lover; though our communion, our LIFE, together, has been broken and disrupted, His affection for our LIFE together drives Him to repair and restore that communion.  Not enough to overthrow His need for justice and truthfulness.  But it is enough that he chooses MERCY.  He chooses to pay for the penalty at his own great cost, and then gives us the benefit of that payment.

That mercy is manifested in the third major cord.  His love for LIFE and COMMUNION is played out time and time again in the face of corruptible human partners who refuse, blunder, and disobey Him directly and constantly.  But He always subverts our subversion by being a servant-type.  Steadily, Holy God reveals his compulsion to show mercy and love LIFE by serving rather than demanding.  By paying rather than charging.

And that story repeats itself in every single generation.

In Genesis 26, Isaac, son of Abraham is at a cross roads.  There is great famine in the promised land.  The land God promised Abraham is dried and cracked.  People are leaving, looking for relief.  Isaac wanders into the land of the Philistines, perhaps on his way to Egypt when God says to him, “Do not go into Egypt; but stay where I instruct you.  Stay awhile and I will be with you and will bless you.”

Why?  Because he promised Abraham that in this place, the family tree of Abraham would become a family forest-wilderness of trees.  God’s promises are good.  No statute of limitations on that.  No expiration date.  Totally transferable.  Beyond-lifetime guarantee.

But Isaac becomes afraid.  He becomes worried.  He is insecure.  He has the same fears his father did before him, that the beauty of his wife would bring his own life into jeopardy.  So he plays the same card that his father did, and lies.  “She is my sister,” he would say.

But he gets caught.  Just like his dad.  Some lessons don’t come easy, I guess.

Isaac lied for the same reason Abraham did- he did not think God’s power was present where he was.  He probably believed in a geographical-God- a God who was strong at home, but not beyond the walls and doors of that home.  We do that too!  I do that too!  I have all the faith in the world when I’m with my small group, at my church, at that convention.  But where does that faith go when I am driving on the interstate, or shopping at a store in a seedy looking neighborhood?  Where is that faith when I am walking the sidewalks downtown?  Am I confident in God then?  Or do I adjust the rake of my hat a little, to look a little tougher?  Do I make criticisms that aren’t really merciful, so that I can appear witty or sophisticated?  Do I maybe make decisions because I know there are eyes watching me?  Eyes other than God’s?

But what happens?  Does God rebuke Isaac for falling into the same trap his father did?  For his faithlessness?

It says that Isaac planted crops, and reaped 100 times what he planted.  Why?  Because God blessed him.

Why?  Well, I think it’s safe to say that God doesn’t always bless a person because they merited it by good behavior.  Well, that leaves one other possibility: God blessed Isaac because it suited God’s ambitions to do so.  More succinctly, it pleased God to bless Isaac.  Or another way: God was pleased to bless Isaac for God’s own purposes and pleasure.

Later on we begin to see a reason for this: people once hostile to Isaac come to him and say “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you;”

Who is glorified by that?  Isaac?  He certainly gains from it, but I have to say that No, God is glorified by that.

God is glorified when people see Him blessing us.  God gives to us because then other people can see the riches of God in our life.  Apart from our merit, apart from our good decisions or bad decisions.  God blessed Isaac and people saw it.  They didn’t say, “that Isaac guy is a heck of a farmer,” or “that Isaac, boy, he really knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he?”  Nope, they said, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you;”

Do what you can to hear and obey.  But thank God for His mercy!  And allow His blessing on your life to be visible to others!  Make every good thing that you have be a gift rather than something earned.

The struggle for me is to accept it.  I want to earn it.  I want to deserve God’s favor.  And I think that’s a good thing.  I think that desire is placed in my heart by God, by His mercy, to drive me to live in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the fullness of the LIFE He made it to be.  The trouble comes though when in my desire to earn his favor, I lose sight of his grace.  You don’t want to do that.  You don’t want to turn God away and say, “no, no.”

The grace that causes that desire to deserve God’s favor is good- it impels me to pull God’s kingdom into my present.  That’s a gift to me because God’s kingdom is what I’m designed for.  And you too.  But when I have to earn it, I lose it.  I can’t earn it.  I must accept it.  And that’s alright with Him.  That’s the only way it works.  Isaac didn’t reap 100 times what he sowed because he knew something the others didn’t.  It was because God desired to be seen through Him.  I’d like to try that.  I’d like to be a prism for God’s light to shine through.  For the beam to refract, and spread, and shine.

Genesis 9

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you…

15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

Can you imagine stepping off the ark?  After six months of water, water, everywhere, finally stepping down onto solid ground? If you’re in the Navy, or were, you might be able to envision this.  I would suggest though, that while similar, the experience is not exactly the same, because even though you were in the middle of the ocean, and there was no land in sight- you knew that somewhere out there, over the horizon there was land.  You were on your way somewhere.

The bible says that when Noah got off the boat, he made an altar and burned a sacrifice  to God, and that God was pleased by the aroma of the sacrifice.

Putting myself in Noah’s position, I wonder if there might be an element of fear- worry that if I somehow screwed up, this time I might not get the heads-up or the boat.  Worry that if I did something wrong, the rains might come back.  I’m not saying that the sacrifice was done fearfully- I’m guessing that it was done in a spirit of elation.  But down the road, after the first argument on dry-land, after the first mistruth between a husband and a wife, or a father and a son- then, would he wonder?

But God steps back into the picture, kneels down, and firmly promises:  Never again.  I solemnly swear [covenant] that you never need to fear the storm.  I will never again destroy all life by the flood.  The seasons will always come and go, and the sun shall always follow the rain.  And I will always remember.

And, he says, just to solidify your confidence in this promise, I will make a visible reminder- visible to me, and visible to you, to remind us both of this day.

God has reset the score.  The LIFE He created had been almost completely consumed and wrapped in the stench of dead-living.  So he cleaned the surface off again, and set the only righteous person he could find in the middle of it to start over again.  And he does!

Sort of.

Till the harvest.  And then he discovers the wonders of wine.  And gets himself so faced that he ends up naked on his couch.  Amazing?  Talks directly with God, and then heads straight for the first frat party he can find.  These are the people God talks with!

These are the people that God talks with.

1 of Noah’s 3 sons sees his skunked, naked dad, crashed out on the couch, and makes fun.  He calls brothers 2 and 3 over to get a gander.  But they decline, and choose instead to cover their dad, and go back to trying to forget the whole naked, 600 year old business.  When Noah wakes up from his “slumber” (read: passed out), he discovers what had happened and lays out a curse that would make a fisherman blush and cover his dainty ears.  And we see the Bible lay out an explanation for the beginnings of a conflict that would permeate the Persian culture forever.  We read about it now, every day.

Back in the garden, God made man in “his own image” and gave him authority over the earth.  Ideally, that was supposed to work in a more cooperative way.  God makes a ruling, man executes that ruling on earth, acting as God’s regent, bearing God’s image, and standing as God’s man on earth.  God vested man with that authority, with that power.  So when a blessing flows from a man, or a curse, it has certain degree of weight.  When Noah lays the curse on boy #1, and the blessings on boys #2 and #3, it has weight.  Just as Jesus declared thousands of years later- “what you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and what you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven…”  

What will I curse today?  What will I bless?  I haven’t feared God probably, like Noah might have, following the flood.  Maybe I should be more afraid.  But Jesus has come, and he has removed the need for me to fear.  Maybe that’s my evidence of salvation- I don’t really fear God because I have confidence that the blood of Jesus is enough for me.  But that doesn’t remove the fearful aspect of a Holy God in the presence of corruption.

But God delivered somebody from the flood.  And he continued to talk to him, even though Noah proved to be human (read: prone to sin).  And ultimately, God did this to reestablish LIFE- in contrast to the dead-living, death-wrapped “life” that covered the earth prior to the Great Flood.  God did this to fulfill his long-term promise to Eve in the Garden that somebody from her lineage would smash the serpent’s head.  And He promised that because God loves LIFE.  He loves being around LIFE.  He wants LIFE to spread and rise, and fill.  God loves LIFE.  And God keeps his word.  Always.  And it is to his pleasure.  His desire to see LIFE.

When the Man Comes Around