Posts Tagged ‘Isaac’

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.


My Kind

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Chapter-a-day
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Genesis 25:

22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.
 23 The LORD said to her,
   “Two nations are in your womb, 
   and two peoples from within you will be separated; 
one people will be stronger than the other, 
   and the older will serve the younger.”

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.[f])
 31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
 32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

Oh my.  It is astonishing to me sometimes that God is so committed to working through and for such a destructive, fickle, and contentious creature as me, you, them, us.

I imagine that for Rebekah it was a difficult life.  Swept up into the unexpected marriage with such flair and drama.  The expectations that might have developed from such a divinely appointed betrothal might have been a heavy burden as the years went on and she discovered her infertility.

She must have asked herself where the train jumped the track.  “It was so clear that God was with us when the servant told his story about finding me at the well.”

“And then when I actually met my husband, working far off in the field as we approached.”

But now, years later, and no family.  The tension between Isaac and Rebekah was probably quiet but palpable.  Ishmael had a full family.  Isaac should too.  There was God’s promise!

And then she was pregnant.  But that is only the beginning to new drama, rather than an end to the old.  It is a troubled and worrisome pregnancy.  And she comes to God.  And God delivers to her the truth of what is in her belly.  Two brothers.  And they will have a quarrelsome and unnatural relationship.  More good news!

Hard to say, this prophecy.  Is it God predestining a conflict?  Or does he simply know how the choices will be made, how the characters will think?  Does he so intimately understand the minds of those two boys that he can predict with utter certainty and zero doubt what is to come?

God can see that Jacob will be docile, but manipulative, self-serving and scheming.  He can foresee that Esau will be rash, intemperate and eager to be served.

Jacob, who will carry on the promise given to Isaac through his father, Abraham, to be a father of nations.  Jacob, who will become the father of 12 sons, who will become the 12 tribes of God’s called people, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Jacob, who God will call by a new name: Israel.

Jacob is the guy that God is going to use so impressively?  Jacob the liar, the schemer, the manipulator who weaseled his older brother out of only real claim over a bowl of stew?!

What kind of God are we dealing with?  Well, we’re dealing with a God who has committed to working through a particular line to bring about a centuries old promise.  HIS promise.  We’re dealing with a God who promised Noah, never again to destroy all life, even THOUGH the thoughts of men are evil from birth.  We’re dealing with a God who loves LIFE, and giving LIFE above keeping the right kind of company.  He’s a God who makes a way for people who have no place being with him, to make a space at His table.

God didn’t choose Jacob because he was an example of what God wanted man to be.  He chose Jacob inspite of who Jacob was, because God was more committed to His own character and promises.

What if I worried less about what other people think, do, choose, say, believe?  And worried more about upholding the highest values that God upholds?  To save, and to be merciful, and to serve people who don’t deserve to be served?

What would happen if the kindness God has shown me individually, but also has shown the whole lineage of Jesus, were a part of my own character?  What would people say?

What if I was a servant to people who didn’t deserve to be served?

What if the church stopped judging people and culture, and just started to care for their needs?  Their real, physical, right-now needs?  Would that diminish the church?  Would that diminish God or who He is?

What if churches (please understand; churches are not institutions, they are groups of like-minded, and bound people), created and offered ministries that didn’t necessarily result in people coming to their church, but always resulted in God’s light shining a little brighter in a corner that was previously dark?

God sees through who you are.  He knows who you really, really are.  And His plan for you is greater than your life.  His dreams for you are greater, wider, longer, and better than your dreams for your life.  Don’t allow a patchy past to let you think He is not interested in you or your “type.”  He’s interested in exactly our type.  That’s the only kind he really knows!

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.  

There is only one story from the Bible that I just can’t get.  The bible is full of violence, sexual exploitation, and deceit.  Those I can stomach.  That’s just what happens when people think they know what God knows.  I don’t mean to oversimplify, but people make bad decisions.  All the time.

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, so they threw him in a well and left him to be sold as a slave.  Jacob lied to his (blind) father about who he was.  Esau gave up his entitlements as the firstborn son because he was “dying” of hunger.  One story tells of two brothers who gave offerings to God, and one brother killed the other because he was jealous.  Killed his brother.  People are jacked up.  What else can be said?

No, the story that I just don’t get is one where God challenges a father to burn his one and only son.  What kind of God does that?  Seriously?  I don’t have a good answer for this one.

God makes a really amazing promise to Abraham- a totally unbelievable promise.  He says he will enlarge the family of an otherwise barren couple in their nineties to a number that rivals the stars in the sky, or the sands of the seashore.  And then He actually delivers.  And not 50 years later, as often seems in our lives.  But right away; the birth of the child, Isaac.

And he then turns off the faucet.

God told Abraham that he would make him a nation.   God told Abraham that all of the earth would be blessed through him and his offspring.  Sounds promising to me… and then Isaac is born (after a man-made intervention with a servant produces Ishmael), and that’s it.  Small nation.

So several years go by.  Don’t know how many- I’ve had teachers say Isaac could have been anywhere from 12 years old to 35 or 40.  In human terms, I’d have to say a long time, regardless, for someone expecting to give birth to a “nation.”  And God comes and tells Abraham to literally sacrifice his son- the only proof of God’s intention or ability to fulfill His own promise- on an altar of fire.

Seriously?  Who does that?

This is not to say that I can’t come up with a plausible answer.  I’ve heard plenty of sermons on this.  God was paralleling his own personal sacrifice- Abraham going through the same motions that God would be going through as Jesus was nailed to the cross.  That God’s power delivered Isaac as it would later deliver a resurrected Jesus.  OR that the ram in the thicket was symbolic of Jesus- taking the place of Isaac on the altar.  Or that Abraham’s faith is the moral of the story.  Danish philosopher, SÆren Kierkegaard obsessed over this aspect of the story.  Abraham obviously believed that God would resurrect the sacrificed boy.  God had promised to make a nation out of Abraham.

These are all fine appraisals.  And they are all true.  Abraham obviously believed that God was going to do something.  He had the knife above his head and was literally ready to kill his only full son.  And the ram in the thicket is an awesome picture of Jesus replacing Isaac on the altar.  In Isaac we have the fullness of the human race in a sense.  And there is a richness in the language- God asks Abraham to deliver Isaac, His one and only son as a sacrifice.  That line, the one about a “one and only son” shows up again in the biblical narrative.  The church confession is that Jesus is God’s “only begotten Son”.

For me, the bottom line is my faith holds strong through these cognitive conflicts because God has shown himself to me.  I guess maybe that’s Abraham’s excuse too.

When I held my dad’s arm, and felt his pulse stop in his elbow six years ago, my faith was deeply shaken.  How does a person slip so quickly from one existence to another?  I struggled to really be comforted by Heaven as I understood it.  And if I couldn’t believe in heaven, what could I believe in?

But many dark weeks later, the small whisper reminded me: nothing in your life has really changed.  All the reasons you believe have not changed.  God is still God, even if you can’t understand heaven.  Jesus is still an undeniable person to be confronted.  The cross is still an undeniable end to that person’s life.  And the resurrection is still to be believed!  All of these posts were still there- even when I was challenged with something I couldn’t understand.

Maybe if I had come into such an intimate connection with God I’d be willing to be talked into some crazy things too.

What about you?  Is there a story from the bible that you just *don’t* get?  Have you been challenged to accept something from God that you just can’t wrap your brain around?