Posts Tagged ‘mercy’

Genesis 42:

6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

 8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
 22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

  He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
 25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

Families are indeed curious creatures.  If you have one, you must agree.  They have these histories- they become genetic.  Part of the DNA of each person.  In this segment of Genesis a strange reunion takes place.  The conceited son who was ambushed, sold off in spite, and left for dead on the highway of their shared memory is reunited with 10 of his 11 brothers.  But rather than leap down from his place, clutching them and exclaiming, he upholds his new identity as an Egyptian governor, keeping safe distance.

In fact, he actually comes down pretty hard on his brothers, yelling at them, and accusing them of mortal crimes.  He throws them in jail for 3 days just to make them sweat.

It says in the scripture that “he remembered his dreams about them [bowing down to him].”  Yet he keeps all of that to himself.

Apparently, though time has passed, and they have collectively agreed that Joseph was killed tragically long ago, the guilt has not passed.  Though they may never talk about it openly, the sounds of their brother weeping and pleading from the bottom of the cistern still echo in the space between them.  And now, at a distance from their father, those memories are not distant.  They are right there, on the surface.  Having another moment of glory, slimy and black on their collective memory.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.

What a horrible moment this must have been.  Full of tension.  Full of angst.  All the way around the stage, everyone tense, everyone eager for resolution.  Nobody knowing how it might happen.

Did Joseph’s conceit return?  Was he gloating in the memory of his dream, with the sheaves of grain bowing down to his sheaf?  Is this the return of the old Joseph?  What in the world is God’s spirit doing right now?

Does God gain glory from this moment?  Brothers in conflict?

In the New Testament epistle called 2 Peter, the author speaks of God not being slow… as some understand slowness.  I don’t know what the Greek words are for all of this- but I have been comforted by the idea of this phrase.  

God is not subject to linear time the way that we are.  The way that Joseph and his brothers were.  God holds time within himself.  Each moment of our history is evident to him.  I believe that every moment of history exists as the present for God.  He is the creator and sustainer of every moment.  Each moment of our lives is utterly rooted in God and in his sustenance.  He is more than sunlight feeding a plant.  He is the sunlight, the soil, the ability to convert the sunlight into energy usable by the plant- he is the time it takes for the plant to convert the sunlight.

My point in saying this is that I see moments like these, where time seems to slow down, and each moment is adrenalin times 100- when each second is like fire and ice mixed together in a torturous pathology, God is still present in these moments.

In that moment when my father was dying, and me and my brothers sat around his bed- where was the glory of God in that?  Each of us experiencing our own private anxiety about losing our father.  Each of us reliving all of the moments of our lives with him, good and bad.  Between each breath.  Each of us secretly fearing the next moment.  Secretly hoping that something miraculous might happen, each knowing that it was impossible.

His glory seemed slow in coming.  But God doesn’t “do” time like we “do” time.  His kind of doing time sees the apple, the manger, the cross, and the last trumpet all at the same time.  Maybe that’s what we’re seeing here.  A sliver of the spectrum.

Joseph conceives of a plan.  He wants to see his littlest brother, Benjamin.  It seems, from the text, that Jacob is protecting Benjamin, desperately, almost as though that might somehow save Joseph from his past.

Joseph uses his power and swag to fill the bags of his brothers not only with grain but with the money they used to purchase it as well.  He must have known it would cause them great terror.  Maybe.  Maybe it didn’t occur to him that they might see it is as an opportunity for Egypt to take them all away for good and for ever.

In either event, he keeps one brother as collateral- a guarantee that they will return, and they will bring the little brother, Benjamin.

But when the brother’s get back to their father and tell them what happened, he is in despair at the loss of another son.  And utterly refuses to let another child go down to Egypt.  He is still mourning the loss of Joseph, and is thrown into mourning for Simeon as lost.  And he will not lose another.

But Rueben, desperate to regain his conscience, and fully lost in remorse over Joseph, offers the lives of his own children as a promise that Benjamin will return unharmed from Egypt.

Are you in mourning over something that is behind you?  Or frightened of something in front of you?  I have been.  I am.  At times like this it’s easy to wonder where the hell God has gone.  But we have for us many examples, in scripture, and even in the collective lives of our families and friends, stories of God’s faithfulness.  The written comfort from 2 Peter is often on my lips, and in my ears.  God is true.  He is faithful to his own character.  It sometimes drags out for us- sparks glowing into embers, into flames into a full-on all consuming fire that seems like it will go forever.  But it won’t.  It can’t.

Only God and his words can go forever.  And his words, his promise, is that He is with us.

“He is not slow in keeping his promise, as some reckon slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3

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Genesis 37:

5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
 8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
 9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”
 31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”
 33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

36 Meanwhile, the Midianites[c] sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

Well, another generation has come, and God’s deliverer, promised in Eden, has not yet arisen. So the slow crawl continues.

Israel is older now, and his youngest son is 17- a young man.

There’s a familiar story here, of jealousy, and of pride. Joseph, in my mind, seems naive to a fault, telling his brother’s all these self-aggrandizing dreams, and alienating them all in the process. But this morning, having stared so intently into the family history of deceitfulness, manipulation and scheming, passed down from Abram to Isaac, and then to Jacob, now called Israel, and seeing it’s familiar face in the countenances of the jealous brothers- I can’t help but think that Joseph was less dewy eyed and silly in telling his brothers about his dreams, and more prideful- pricking at the social order and decorum. He’s maybe jabbing a stick between the bars, poking the lion with his comments, and trying to stir up division in the large family.

But it backfires, dramatically, when the brothers agree (that’s eleven of them in agreement- rare among people, much less brothers, much much less among brothers who all have different mothers) that they should kill Jacob’s son, Joseph.

Reuben- the oldest son, gets cold feet, though, and thinks to himself that he will rescue Joseph later. He vanishes from the scene, for no known reason, only to return to an empty cell. Joseph is gone. There will be no rescue.

The others, seeing a band of travelers, change their course, choosing to sell Joseph into slavery, and only pretend to kill Joseph.

Joseph ends up in the house of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, sold as a slave.

This is the fate of Israel’s favorite son. Doesn’t seem very well conceived. Israel, this man who God has promised such amazing things. Joseph, the apple of the promise holder’s eye.

I wonder what Joseph thought about all that time. I wonder if he thought it was all just a practical joke. The older sibs putting him back in his place. A hazing of some kind. A little dose of “shut-up.”

What a long season of suck that ended up being. Seriously. Joseph is torn from a good life, near his father, comfortable in his work, and cared for. And the very next day, he’s totally despised by his own brothers, sold into a life of servitude in a foreign land. Luh-ame.

His brothers, now saddled with the knowledge that they have done something horrible. And all of them probably daily worried, wondering if one of their little tribe is going to despise them next, sell them next. Wondering if somebody is going to go behind the whole group and tell Israel what really happened.

Israel, old and filled with sorrow. Obsessed with the notion of death being the only way he will find solace.

And yet God stirs. He is said, many, many lifetimes later, to make all things count for good. I would add that it does not necessarily mean that all things are themselves good. Terrible things happen- things that are grievous and unnatural. Rape. Murder. Theft. Lying. Depression. Disease. Death. People are often at a loss for how to reconcile these things with a “loving” God. An all Powerful God. How can these things happen? And I can totally get that. But on this side of the line of faith, I see something else too. I see how God permits these things to happen because they must. We have broken so many of His ordinances that it is unavoidable. But He has mercy in that He is making a way. He is lighting a pathway out of our tragedies, and into the way of His Kingdom. I believe He mitigates the consequences of our lives so often.

But the picture I see here, is that something terrible happens to Joseph, and to Joseph’s family. And we will see how God “makes” (think Creates) good things to happen as a result. 

This is intrinsic to God’s character. He is a maker. He is a maker of things that are GOOD. The first chapters of Genesis are filled with that affirmation, and it rings true still. Humanity birthed disobedience into the scenario, not God. But God, true to his character, creates something NEW. He creates something that is GOOD. It is LIFE giving. It is LIFE affirming.

So yes, terrible, awful things happen. And in Joseph’s case, it maybe years before you understand, if ever, the season of suck that is about to take you under for the last time. But when I am in the darkest days of the season of suck, I can cling, in a white-knuckle, death-grip clutch, to the rock-foundation truth that God is a maker. Of good things. Of LIFE things. Of NEW things. That is no different, no less true for me, or for you, than it ended up being for Joseph. And God’s character forces His own hand- He will be faithful and MAKE all things to turn out for GOOD. That’s the only kinda makin He does that you need to remember…

Genesis 34: 

1 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her.

5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home. 6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in[a] Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.

24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised. 25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where[c] their sister had been defiled.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land.

31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”

One of the things I treasure about the bible shows itself here, in this passage.  The bible is honest to a fault.  It doesn’t try to paint it’s heroes as anything but… well, messed up people who make awful decisions.  It doesn’t make anybody perfect except Jesus.  You might expect the heroes of a book of legend to be largely flawless.  You might expect moments of indiscretion to be left out of the record.  People with dicey reputations and spotty records might be left out altogether, just for the sake of preserving the better name of the greater good.  But that just doesn’t happen in the bible’s record.

The character of God is sometimes hidden though.  Not invisible.  Not absent.  Just a little harder to see.

In the beginning, God made people in his image.  This is a core tenet of Judeo-Christian society- God imparted something to the human race that is distinctly him.  It’s a mysterious gift- the biblical narrative never states emphatically what exactly that is- what the “it” is that makes humanity bear God’s image.  Does that mean God has eyes, and a nose, and ears?

The bible says that God is spirit, so I’m inclined to saying no-

The Genesis story says that God made Man (and by that, I mean to indicate all of the race of humans) “to rule over the earth” and to “care for it.”  I think that is a cornerstone to understanding what it means to bear God’s image.  We are to bear a sort of responsibility, on behalf of God, for and to His creation.  We are stewards.  And in that regard, he has gifted us with attitudes and characters that are like Him.

Justice.  Concern.  Compassion.  Creativity.  Conservation and Prudence.  Pleasure.  Management.  Service.  Culture and Community.  Glory!  Even glory.  We desire to be known, and to know.

The list could go on.  But we can learn about God, and about who he is by seeing what drives us because he built us to be like Him.

But with sin in the picture, those motives, originally good, can be twisted and deformed.  And that is what we see recorded here.

Jacob’s sons, after learning of Dinah’s tragic abuse at the hands of Shechem are infuriated.  They take on for themselves the injustice of rape.  The rape of their sister is a personal affront.

It is no different with God.  He is the ultimate empathizer.  When His creation is mangled, misused, or mismanaged, it is an affront to Him.  It is disregard for something He highly regards.

If you have been mishandled, misused, or hurt, whether it was at the hands of a Christian or not, God empathizes with you.  God takes your side.

Where the story goes off the rails is where Simeon and Levi decide to take matters into their own hands.  They trick Hamor and Shechem into getting circumcised by telling them it is required to take Dinah as a wife.  But then when they have been circumcised and are just beginning to heal, Jacob’s sons raid the town, taking advantage of their severe inability to defend themselves adequately, killing all of the men and plundering the town.

This is not God’s justice.  This is just another kind of rape.

When Jacob hears it, he’s furious.  He berates the boys, telling them what an awful decision it was.  They are not justified in doing this horrible thing by the horrible thing that had been done to them.

God is the one who brings justice.  God alone is judge.

He built in us a desire for justice.  But vengeance is the Lord’s.

It is a good thing, and a sign of his stamp on you when you either feel the sting of injustice, or the keen desire to see justice reign.  That is something in you that God designed and gives Him pleasure to see.

But justice in God’s Kingdom is delivered on the hands of forgiveness.  Retribution comes in the form of a cool glass of water.  For when we bless our enemies, we peel the veil back on God’s new kingdom, right where we are.  And the true enemies, Pride, Greed, Sin, and Death, are the ones who are chastised.

The Kingdom of God, and the Image of God don’t look all that different. Justice reigns.  Mercy drives.  Love and compassion are the fuel.  Violence and vengeance have no place in the Kingdom of heaven.  On one day, God will dispel all that mars the face of his kingdom.  Until then, it is forgiveness, empathy, and compassion.  When evil is committed, pursue justice.  By dousing the fire of fury with the cool water of mercy.  In the steam that rises, God’s image takes form.

Genesis 28:

4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.”

13 There above it[c] stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[d] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

 16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

 18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[e] though the city used to be called Luz.

 

 

The bible is an interesting tool in the right hands.  It’s an even more interesting one in the wrong hands.  It’s striking to me how we debate about literal translations, or metaphorical/allegorical translations, and what’s right and what’s wrong, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

 

Because the first thing the bible is, absolutely and concretely, is a historical account.  It is a written record of events that happened somewhere to somebody or because of somebody.  So I like to start there when I’m reading.

 

Here, in chapter 28, Isaac has accepted that he was duped into blessing Jacob, and affirms that blessing by directing him to marry from his own people in Harran, where Abraham began his journey when his father died.  So Jacob leaves, carrying the legacy of his father Isaac, given to him by God and also his own father, Abraham, a blessing of prosperity, and as we’ve come to speak of it, that Jacob would have a “full quiver.”

 

Jacob stops along his journey, finding a suitable place to spend the night.  He sleeps, but has a dream, a vision, where God ordains Jacob as the next to carry the legacy of His promise to Abraham, and to Noah before him, the legacy of a family like the sands of all the shores, or all the stars in the sky.  And that in that family lineage would be a blessing for all the peoples of the earth, a veiled reminder that He’s still working out his first promise to Eve, the promise of reparations for the damage of the serpent’s lie.

 

Jacob awakes, and amazed that God would appear in this desolate, bland, unremarkable place, says “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”  Honoring this newly revealed treasure, he renames the place, calling it “Bethel.”  The text notes that it already had a name though, “Luz.”

But apart from the strictly historical aspect, , here I find an interesting “type,” or an image of something more conceptual.  It may not be the primary function for this passage of scripture being in the historical record for us all to see, but nevertheless, it bubbles up to the surface when I read this.

God is already everywhere we go.

See?  Deep, huh?  No, but seriously, how many times have you felt like you were trying to bring God into somebody’s life?  Like, opening the door to somebody’s heart and trying to help God squeeze in like a camera crew for the TV show “Hoarders”  trying to worm their way into a crowded hallway, around a door that can’t open all the way.

Dude-  God’s already in there.

Maybe you have a husband or a wife who is closed off from your faith, and you want so much to share it with them.  But you can’t find an entry point.

God is already in there.

Whenever that person experiences you loving them, God is there.  Whenever that person experiences you engaging with their problems, and hurting from their hurts, God is interacting with them.

I see a model of that in this story of Jacob’s.  He lays his head down in an unfamiliar place, and God reveals himself.  Jacob awakens, and realizes that though the place is unfamiliar, unremarkable, and otherwise appears desolate, God is already here.  So he claims it with an altar, and renames it.  It’s never going to just be some spot on a map.  It’s never going to be called desolate again.  Now it’s Bethel, the Lord’s house.

Where are you?  Has God shown himself to you yet?  Or are you possibly trying to bring God someplace that He’s been already forever?  Look around.  Where is love being shown or given?  Where is service being done?  Where are people investing into each other with genuine concern and selflessness?  God is already there.  Call him out, remove the veil, and name Him.

This is another block in the bridge called mercy.  Another paver on the road “grace.”  He is already there providing for your needs before you recognize Him.  He isn’t waiting for you to call on Him to shower down His gifts on you.  They are laying around you on the ground, waiting for you when you get there.  You are wearing them.  Sleeping in them.  Loving them in your life already.

The rock upon which Jacob laid his head that night, the rock that became the altar marking this unremarkable place called the Lord’s house, was already there.  Jacob didn’t pack it with him.  All he did was lay his head on it, and God opened up the realm, peeled back the veil and showed himself.

Just go on your journey, and keep your eyes open, and if you are tired, or think you are alone, just lay down.

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.

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 21 

1 Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised.

8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there nearby, she[c] began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

There’s a common misconception about God’s people.  This misconception is actually so prolific that you’ll find it both outside the church-culture and within the church-culture.  I might even suggest that the misconception is the cornerstone of the wall dividing the church culture and the non-church culture.  And I think that here, in this selection of excerpts from Genesis 21 the misconception is seen in action, AND it’s shown as false, all at the same time.

So what is it?

Sarah, protective of her baby and his legacy, is threatened, again, by the presence of Hagar the Egyptian and her son, Ishmael.  Her pride is pricked by the boy’s taunting.  So she tells Abraham, to “get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with MY son, Isaac.”

Woah.  Easy, girl.  Sarah has bought into the misconception; one that I have been guilty of believing too.

The lie?  The lie is that there’s some kind of qualitative difference between “us” and “them.”  And by the way that goes either way; “US” can be “us church-people” and “them” can be “them church-people.”

Fact is that we’re all just people.

Abraham, assured by God that Ishmael does not lose connection with God by being sent out, sends Hagar and Ishmael away, as Sarah has demanded.

God claims Ishmael and Hagar in the desert, when their resources have run dry and Hagar has all but given up.  She has no more hope, no more energy, and nothing left to use.  So she sets the boy down and wanders off, not feeling up to watching Ishmael die in the sun.

And for the second time in Hagar’s life, God comes to her in the desert, when she’s out of food, out of water, and out of places to go.  He says to her, “Do not be afraid,” because He has heard the crying boy.

“Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Last time God visited Hagar in the desert, she named Him “the God who Sees Me.”  This time, God names himself, saying “I have heard the boy crying.”

Then it says that God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.

“God was with the boy as he grew up.”

I think that sometimes the greatest obstacle to seeing the expansion of God’s kingdom in our lives and in our individual worlds, is the walls we build between “us” and “them.”  It’s a false divider that we set up, that I have set up in my weakness.  I have set up those dividers to keep myself clean, to keep myself above.  Sometimes, I’ve done it with the intent of maintaining my innocence and purity.  But the truth is, it never works.  I have never kept my innocence nor my purity.  I am a sinner.  I am captured in the orbits of a broken world.  It does not own me, nor will it have me.  But I am not outside of the stink of it’s breath.  Not yet.

So I must depend of Jesus.  I must repent daily of my missteps, and my misdeeds.  My selfishness and insubordination.  I must daily remind myself that I have been bought- and not just rented.

God does not love me and hate “them.”  God does not favor “me” and despise “them.”  I am not “better” and they are not “worse.”  There is no “slave woman,”  and actual wife.  That is a simple, and naive label that is used to distance Hagar from Sarah.  And it doesn’t work, really.  God blesses Hagar and Ishmael, that “slave woman AND her son.”

This God, this LIFE loving, LIFE repairing God cares not for “us” and “them.”  He causes the sun to shine on all, righteous and wicked.  It stands to be said that unless your name is “Jesus” and you’re resurrected from death to life, you’ve still got a touch of wicked in you somewhere.  Just to be clear.  He causes the sun to shine on Jesus and us.  On Isaac AND Ishmael.

Why?  Because he is a LIFE loving, LIFE repairing God.  He is not vengeful against what He is made, but rather He is on a mission to make it back to the way it was, or better.

God tells Abraham, “Do not be so distressed… I will make the son of the maidservant [(note that God does NOT call her the “slave woman)] into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”  God keeps promises.  He promised Abraham, as He promised Eve.

Do not be so distressed.  God will do what God will do.  And it always goes back to a promise He has made.  And the very first promise was a promise to restore communion.   No more labels.  No more “us” and “them.”  No more divisions or dividers.  We all fall on Christ.  His righteousness.  All of us.  Even us.  Even them.