Friday, October 31, 2008

1 Samuel 21

There isn’t much to take from this chapter today. Essentially it tells us that David went from one place to another as he fled from the wraith of Saul. We see him regain Goliath’s sword, then he goes on to Gath and acts as a madman in order to hide out further. What can we gain from this? It certainly doesn’t seem as if there is some deep lesson to be learned here.

Sometimes we have to lower ourselves before we can be given the glory of God. This is what David had to do. It is somewhat similar to Moses, who had to flee his people for awhile and live in the wilderness. This is merely David doing what he had to do in order to survive. He knew God had a higher purpose for him, but now was not the time for that purpose. This is how I feel in my life as I sit in a job that continues to have little value to me. I do it because God needs me here at the moment, but I know there is more in store.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

1 Samuel 19

I am not quite sure what to say about the second part of this chapter, but the first part of it is a little more clear. As we begin this chapter, the king of Israel is trying to kill David. David was an innocent man. It makes no sense for Saul to try and kill him because David had brought Saul great glory in battle. Saul was susceptible to the ways of man, however. He was jealous of David for getting even more glory. Evil had corrupted Saul because he turned away from God, but David hadn’t at this point.

The whole world had to feel like it was against David at this point. He had done nothing but glorify God, but he was being hunted down by his father-in-law. What do we do when the world is against us like this? David had given so much and remained faithful. Yet even in his blessing of a wife and influence he was still being repressed and beaten down by the ways of the world. It is a familiar feeling. I live it every day when I come in to the prison that is the job I have little choice but to work.

18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. 19 Word came to Saul: "David is in Naioth at Ramah"; 20 so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul's men and they also prophesied. 21 Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. 1 Samuel 19:18-21

Even when Saul was doing evil, we see that God used it for good. Saul was trying to kill David, yet the very men that he sent to dot he job were used to further God’s word through prophesy. We see that even Saul himself would be used in this way when he personally tried to go and kill David. When we are in God’s favor and the world is against us we have to remember this passage. God will never falter. This is a lesson hat I must apply daily, and have done a poor job of it so far.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

1 Samuel 18

When the unknown ascend to greatness, it often leads to jealousy from those in power. That is what we see today as David continues his rise in Israelite society. Saul had been on the throne for some time by mandate of the people. The people of Israel longed for an earthly king, and Saul was chosen for this role. He was chosen mostly because he looked like he would be a good King, yet his heart was not fully committed to the Lord. As a result, Israel began to turn away from God.

As Saul lost his stature, David gained it. Not only that, but in his jealousy, Saul set the worst example possible. Meanwhile, David maintained a humble posture. He knew that his strength came from God alone. Saul looked for ways to continually have David killed, while David looked only to serve God. David developed a very close friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan as well. This friendship was a blessing and a curse. It strengthened David, but it brought more attention from Saul upon him.

20 Now Saul's daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 21 "I will give her to him," he thought, "so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." So Saul said to David, "Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law."

22 Then Saul ordered his attendants: "Speak to David privately and say, 'Look, the king is pleased with you, and his attendants all like you; now become his son-in-law.' "

23 They repeated these words to David. But David said, "Do you think it is a small matter to become the king's son-in-law? I'm only a poor man and little known." – 1 Samuel 18:20-23

David had many things going for him at this point. He had the love of the people and of the king’s daughter. He was good friends with the king’s son, and was the rising star in Israelite society. Even in this, he maintains his humble nature before the Lord. He could have been given the king’s daughter, but instead doubled what he felt he had to do in order to earn her. We know later that David will falter before God. He will not always maintain this attitude, but that is because he is human.

David also uses this opportunity to turn Saul’s plot against him. Saul wanted to use his daughter as a way to have David killed in battle. He felt this was the easiest way to get David out of his way. Instead, David had God’s favor and conquered those Saul set against him. Naturally, this made Saul fearful. This is just further proof that God takes care of those he finds favorable.

Monday, October 27, 2008

1 Samuel 17

Today’s passage is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. The story of David and Goliath is known by almost everyone. Even non-Christians are familiar with the underdog story. It is a story that shows the faith of David even as a very young man as well as how the power of God can accomplish anything. David was facing overwhelming odds, yet his faith never waivered. At a time when even the king of Israel was afraid and faced a hopeless situation, God used the faith of a boy to topple a champion.

It looked impossible too. Goliath was a giant of a man. He was experienced in fighting for more years than David had been alive. That gave him a deadly combination of size, strength, and experience. David, however, had the advantage by knowing he had God on his side. As we read the story in 1 Samuel 17, we see how David was mocked, yet he never let go of his faith. Even as he prepared to fight, those around him couldn’t get around their human weaknesses. They tried to prepare him in conventional ways, yet David knew he would triumph regardless of how much he prepared, simply because he had God on his side.

What I love about this story is that David saw a problem and did something about it. Here we have the entire Israelite army standing around and doing nothing. They were presented with a challenge and did not nothing. They didn’t accept or deny it. They simply waited and hoped it would go away on its own. David saw the adversity facing Israel and did something about it. That is what I am struggling with so much lately. I see the adversity of working a job I despise, yet I don’t know what I can do about it. God plainly wants me here, and if I walk away it only makes matters worse. I want to do something that will take me away from here, but all my other efforts are met with silence at best. I feel like I am facing my own Goliath in the form of a four-year stretch of little professional growth.

34 But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." – 1 Samuel 17:34-37

Can you feel the conviction in David’s words here? This was not a man who felt he was facing impossible odds. This was not a man that even showed fear. He knew he was going to win because he had God on his side. This was as confident as saying, “I’m going to go get a drink of water from that creek over there.” I lack this conviction, this sheer instinct at knowing that victory is a mere formality right now. I even face less dramatic odds than David faced. Still, he knew it was over, and in his favor, before the battle even started.

45 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. – 1 Samuel 17:45-46

Again, we see so much conviction in his words. On human terms, if Goliath were to be defeated, many thought it would be an epic struggle to take him down. Instead, the battle was over almost before it began. Only one blow was struck, and that was by David. That was enough, with the power of God behind it, to triumph over evil. David was not even cocky in his conquest as so many might have been. He continued to humble himself, giving credit for this glorious victory to God. These words are words that give us the strength and courage to face our own Goliaths.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

1 Samuel 16

I once again wanted to step back into the Old Testament to talk about one of the old school heroes of the Bible. This time, we are talking about the life of King David. With him, we see both the greatest that humanity has to offer, and the lowest that we as a race can go. David was one of God’s greatest servants, yet he still fell short of the glory of God numerous times. He is one of the greatest authors of the Old Testament, but I wanted to look at his life as chronicled by the prophet Samuel. This is all new to me, so please bear with me as I haven’t read these accounts in years.

1 Samuel 16 is where we run into David first. At this time he is still a boy, one of the eight sons of Jesse. At this time, God had rejected Saul as Israel’s first king because he did not dedicate himself to the Lord. Samuel was directed to visit Jesse because God Himself would select the next king of Israel personally. This wasn’t even something that would be fulfilled that day. As we will see, it would take years before David officially became king. It was on this day, however, that his destiny was laid out for him.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD."

7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." – 1 Samuel 16:6-7

Essentially, God told Samuel not to judge a book by its cover. Like most of the Bible, this is also a preview of the life of Jesus. David was the unheralded eighth son. Because Middle Eastern society gave such importance to the first born, little was expected of him. Ironically, God often went against this tradition often. Isaac was not Abraham’s first born, but he was chosen. The same with Jacob and Joseph. David is no different in that God knew his heart and saw past the physical characteristics that mankind tends to focus on.

We see that this begins David’s ascension to the throne. Though still just a boy, he was anointed by Samuel and went to serve King Saul as an armor-bearer. This is important because though he would become a great king, he began his role in a posture of humility and servitude. This is what God asks of us today. We must be humble before him, accepting the small first before we can be trusted with the great.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

1 Peter, Chapter 5

It has taken me a few days to get back here, but today we will finally get to the end of 1 Peter. This chapter still deals with the topic of submission, one that is a hot button issues as we discussed in the last chapter. Some would call Paul’s view in the rest of this chapter as a chauvanistic 1st century attitude at a time when women had few if any rights. Today’s look in chapter 5 shows that this is not the case. It shows that men in a marital relationship have a much harder road of being submissive than women. As usual, God has a plan that was true then and is still true today in a much larger, more progressive world.

5Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble." 6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:5-7

Women only have to be submissive to men according to Paul. That is an earthly authority. Men here are asked to be submissive not just before their elders, but to God Himself. If we want to be exalted in this life we must seek a humble existence, putting God’s needs before our own. This is easy to preach, but from my experience, it is extremely hard to do in practice. This does not mean we cannot have our own desires and ambitions. We simply must make sure they are in line with what God wants in our lives. It is when we have this balance that we truly begin to thrive.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

1 Peter, Chapter 4

What does it mean to live for God? In our human capacity, I don’t know if it is possible to live fully for God. According to the standards we have seen not only in this chapter, but throughout the Bible, we cannot possibly do everything we need in order to live fully for God. That takes perfection. We cannot attain perfection even after we have received Christ. This is where the sheer grace of God shows its beauty. Despite the fact that we are asked to be perfect, yet cannot be, we are saved by that grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a message I have repeated here dozens of times, but it never loses its beauty.

1Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 1 Peter 4:1-5

It is my sincere hope that there is a reason for this suffering. Many people go through periods where they experience some or all of what is mentioned in verse 3. I have been there. You eventually reach a point where all the joy that you are supposed to derive from those activities becomes hollow and unfulfilling. It’s not even suffering, but merely an emptiness that comes from pursuing nothing. If we stay there, we invite God’s judgment upon us. That is why we trust in Christ.

By trusting in Christ we avoid that judgment. We give our lives over to Him and he can accomplish amazing things in our imperfections. Even as I struggle daily with issues of depression and feelings of being worthless I see that Christ has accomplished much good in my life. The greatest thing I have ever experienced is not some basketball triumph of academic pursuit, but the fact that my wife is a believer in Christ because God used me to reach her. He placed me in her life. Because of that, another soul is saved for the kingdom.

19So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. – 1 Peter 4:19

This is our most important act in life. Lately I have been thinking of what my mission in life is. I feel like Christ has a specific plan for our lives. In that plan, there are specific missions we must accomplish before the next stage of the plan. Since getting turned down for the job offer I would have preferred last week, it has become clear to me that I am needed at this place I am working at this time in my life for a specific purpose. I don’t want to be here, but god clearly wants me here. To me, it is suffering. In it, I am trying to commit myself to God’s will so I can accomplish my mission here, whatever it may be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

1 Peter, Chapter 3

Today’s passage in 1 Peter is controversial even today. The first part of today’s chapter deals with Husbands and wives, specifically how wives should submit to their husbands. In today’s modern era of equality, the idea of a husband submitting to a man’s authority simply based on gender is demeaning. If you read today’s passage closely, however, you’ll see that the submission asked for is different from mere authority. Also, husbands have their own role of submission to perform.

4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
7Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:4-7

Women are not asked here to submit to the authority of men, but to the authority of God. Men are asked to support and respect their wives with the authority they are given. To me, this means that the marriage is a partnership where the man doesn’t necessarily make every decision. Instead, he consults his partner on decisions and they work through things together. Though the man may make a decision, he does so with the input of his wife. The weaker partner here probably only refers to physical strength. I like to think it does simply because my wife is far from the weaker partner in our marriage.

The second part of today’s chapter deals with suffering for doing what is good. This is something that is an unfortunate part of humanity. Our entire faith is based on someone suffering and dying for all of us even though that person never did anything wrong. It is the ultimate example of our faith, and the apostle Paul elaborates on it here in this letter.

14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:14-17

Sometimes we have to suffer, as verse 17 says, in order to God’s will. No one knew this better than the apostles. Of the 12 of them, every one except for John died a martyr’s death before reaching old age. It is not as if they lived easy lives until meeting this calling either. Paul himself was imprisoned many times. He escaped death in numerous cities before finally meeting his end in Rome. He understood his mission though. He preached the gospel to his last breath. We have most of the New Testament thanks to him, and his ministry has lead to literally billions of people believing in Christ. In all of this, he deflected all the glory to Christ.

That is a life well lived in suffering.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

1 Peter 2

Yesterday was a rough day. I think we are offered somewhat of an explanation as to why we have these days in 1 Peter 2, as we see today. The simple thing is that we are not part of this world. Once we commit ourselves to Christ, we no longer belong to the ways of this world. From that point forward, everything feels out of place. We can often feel lost and confused in a world that runs very differently from how we run our own lives. It is no wonder that the blues, and even depression, can set in.

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:9-12

Verse 11 sums things up best here. This is a war against our souls in which we can feel like we are winning or losing at any moment. The world does not agree with us. It doesn’t take a long look at the media to see that many Christians are painted as right-wing nutjobs afraid of change. Christianity almost carries a negative connotation in some circles because it offers beliefs that greatly differ from others. It is in how we live our lives, as an example unto Christ painted here, that makes a difference.

Monday, October 13, 2008

1 Peter 1

I am in need of encouragement today. The decision I spoke of last week was made, and it was not made in my favor. Though it was not the choice I would have made, I have to submit to God’s will in this instance. Today is merely the aftermath. It is a very down morning as I find myself staring at another dead end, at least from my perception. I turned 29 yesterday as well. Professionally and in some ways personally, there is little reason now to think this year will be any better than the last three or four.

I find myself questioning a lot of things this morning. I question why I am currently where I am in life, with a ton of bitterness still clouding my heart so much that it invades my sleep. I feel alone in a crowded room, but I want to be alone if that makes sense. I attended a football game yesterday with 67,000 people, but I felt alone the entire time. I question openly what purpose I am serving on this earth when I feel like I am being stuffed on a shelf for later. This avenue is one of the few areas where I feel useful.

17Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1:17-21

I didn’t come into the morning expecting to write about 1 Peter. I knew there was encouragement to be found in the apostle Paul, but I wasn’t sure what type I needed today. In doing what I do each for a job, I have a hard time seeing how this work can be judge as anything but useless. I sit here and feel like I am built for so much more, but instead when I pursue it I continuously get told no. Even in this direct decision given to God He made it clear that this is what I am supposed to do. Somehow, I pray He can find glory in it.

And there is glory in that. Verse 21 promises us this. If we believe in our salvation through Christ’s blood, then God finds glory in all we do. Those who know me understand that I am a person of wild, exaggerated examples. I take this promise to the extreme in that case. Imagine God finding glory in everything you do. This includes eating, sleeping, breathing, going to the bathroom, driving your car to work, everything! This is what gives us purpose on days like today. We may not see the glory, but it is there.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Genesis 25

I wanted to thank my readers this morning before I get started. To Michelle, the answer to your question is that Veritas is the Latin word for Truth. It is the one-word creed for Harvard University, so it really stood out to me, especially since Harvard has deep Christian roots in its founding. To Debra, Michelle, and the anonymous Friend in Florida, I thank you for reading. I hope you are all getting as much from reading along in this as I am as I go through these different chapters. Since this is the last day for the life of Abraham, feel free to suggest any other books you might like to discuss. Since I publish this on the fly at work, I don’t check things as much as I should, but I promise to do more of it in the evenings once I get home.

As mentioned above, today is the last day on the life of Abraham. Genesis 25 marks his passing at the age of 175. Throughout his life God blessed Abraham. He even had more than 70 years with his son Isaac. Though he accomplished much and was well-blessed throughout his life, his death is actually very quiet. We see greater detail in the death of his grandson, Jacob, much later in Genesis. Here, Abraham quietly passes on, handing off the responsibility of his blessing to Isaac.

7 Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. – Genesis 25:7-8

That is how Abraham leaves us. There is no grand pronouncement of knowledge on his deathbed. He died much like he lived, in quiet assurance that the Lord was in full control. Maybe that is why there is no grand speech at the end. He knew that his life was represented in how he lived. The Lord would remember him that way throughout the centuries. The example he set forth would then be remembered, not mere words. That is the biggest thing we can take from this.

Personally, this journey through Abraham’s life has spoken directly to my heart. As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s lesson, I feel like the Lord has tried to tell me quite a bit about moving forward in my own faith. As I write this, I still do not have an answer as far as what direction God wants me to go with these jobs, but I feel so much better at leaving the decision entirely to him. If He wants me at the job I prefer, He’ll have them offer and I will take it. If He wants me where I am at, something will prevent the other offer from coming through. I have even prayed that hH will then bless those people with someone better than I since they are pretty high on me at the moment. Abraham teaches so much trust. How can I not follow this example?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Genesis 24

We begin the subtle shift from Abraham’s life to Isaac’s life in this chapter. Still, even at the end of his life, Abraham exuded a faith that is unmatched by most people. He still knew of God’s promise to make a nation out of him through Isaac. A younger, more brash Abraham might have tried to take matters into his own hands again, much like when he went to Hagar for a son. We see the maturity that comes from both age and a long, close walk with God throughout one’s life in this chapter. Instead of seeking a wife for his son, he simply sent a servant back to his people and trusted God to guide him.

On the surface this sounds ridiculous. The servant was supposed to go hundreds of miles away with nothing but some gifts and a story to find a wife for Isaac. How could he not go except by faith? God wasted little time too. As we see from this chapter, the servant had barely gotten to his destination before God provided what he was looking for. The Servant himself exhibited a large amount of faith. His prayer was heartfelt and received an immediate answer when Rebekah walked up to him.

12 Then he prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too'-let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master."

15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor. 16 The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again. Genesis 24:12-16

How can we apply this today? It starts from knowing that God has a plan for all of us. Abraham laid this down because he knew all along God had promised a specific plan for him. We may not have the deep, intimate relationship that Abraham had with God, but He still loves us and has a specific plan in mind. Sometimes we get quick, specific guidance like Abraham and his servant here. Other times, it may take years before we see God’s plan realized. The important lesson is to realize that we do have a plan out there for us. We must wait for it to be realized no matter how long it takes.

As I read this today and applied it to my life I have never felt as if the word was speaking to me so personally. Right now I am facing a major career decision with a couple of options to go. Both are potential offers in drastically different directions. I also know what I would choose if it was my choice. The bottom line is that it is not my choice, just as it was not Isaac, Abraham’s or even the servant’s choice here. This is God’s choice in His plan for my life. There fore, I am giving it to Him. If he wants me in the job that I would choose, He will have them offer and I won’t look back. If he wants me to stay and grow where I am at now, but don’t want to be, something will get in the way and there will be no offer in the Other direction.

It is a chance for me to practice the faith of Abraham, so I hope I am ready for this test.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Genesis 23

I apologize for publishing so sporadically lately. Things have been moving and may continue to move in my life over the next week or so. It is an exciting time to see God’s blessing is about all I can say.

We are almost through our study of the life of Abraham. Today, we reach another crossroads with the death of Sarah. This is roughly about 25 years later from the time when Abraham was tested to sacrifice Isaac. She has constantly been in the background here because of the way Abraham’s society was. Women were treated as property as opposed to human beings. Still, Sarah played a very important role as the matriarch of faith. She still needed to have great faith in order to be blessed as she was. Even with her death, God did amazing things.

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

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

7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 8 He said to them, "If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you."

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 "No, my lord," he said. "Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead." – Genesis 23:3-11

This is proof of both the power of God and how much He blessed Abraham. We know that Abraham is ethnically the father of the modern-day nation of Israel. They are shunned and hated throughout the entire Middle Eastern region. In Abraham’s time, however, he was greatly respected by the local people, as we see here. Even in his time of great grief, they honored him by essentially giving him a place to bury his dead. They could have seen him as a threat, but instead they gave him honor. This is especially profound since later on the Hittites would become Israel’s enemy.

We also see Abraham’s own humility by the way he still pays for something that he is being given for free. There would have been absolutely nothing wrong with accepting what the Hittites were giving him. Still, he honored them by paying the price they named even though they did not want it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Genesis 22

These are something the things I love: my wife. My family. My friends. My state finals medal from when I was on my high school basketball team. The flag that was on my grandfather’s casket at his funeral. These are some of the things I treasure deeply. I wouldn’t give them up or betray them for any earthly thing. I do not have any children of my own yet, but I can only imagine the love and connection one would feel toward a child.

Now imagine being asked to give up this connection willingly. It’s not like you are sending this child away so that it may have a successful life you won’t see. No, you are asked to tie this child down, kill them with a knife, then burnt he remains as an offering to the lord. Who has the strength to do that? Who would think they were in their right mind if they were compelled to do that?

We see this ultimate example today when Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac. It is believed that the boy was 13 by now, so we know that we are almost 40 years into Abraham’s story of faith. We have seen him be ultimately faithful, yet we have seen him fail. This appears to be his ultimate test, as he is asked to personally sacrifice the thing that the Lord promised him. He carried that sacrifice right up to the moment of truth, trusting that God would provide another sacrifice in Isaac’s place.

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"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." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

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 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." – Genesis 22:6-13

This is a prelude to Christ’s sacrifice. It shows us the love that Abraham felt toward God that he was willing to give up anything to gain his favor. God showed us the same love by actually going through with the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. I cannot imagine what had to be going through the minds of all the parties involved here. Abraham had to have great faith, yet he also probably had great fear that God wouldn’t come through. Because of his failings before, we know he was prone to fail again.

So what can we learn from this? First, God is in control, even when he seems to make a radical request we don’t necessarily agree with. Second, we must be prepared to give everything we have been given because God is the source of that blessing. Third, we see that a bad situation doesn’t necessarily have to end badly. Instead of losing a son, Abraham gained God’s favor further. His blessing continues even today.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Genesis 21

It feels somewhat ironic that I got to read this chapter today. Today’s chapter deals primarily with the fulfillment of a promise. God promised Abraham that he would have a son with his wife, Sarah. Abraham is now 100 years old at this and Sarah is 90. Both had obviously waited a very long time for this promise to be fulfilled. The irony comes from the fact that, as of this morning, I have two legitimate job offers on the table after nearly four years of not having a single one. Nothing is concrete yet, but both look pretty good. One is a slightly more secure position than the other, but the second is more in line with my goals.

Maybe God is trying to tell me something here with the life of Abraham, because here he had to choose between his sons. He had to decide which son to keep with him and which one to send away. Both were going to be prosperous. God promised to watch out for both, and Abraham obviously loved them both. Still, he had to chose. I know I am not choosing the fate of nations here as Abraham, but it is still a choice. It is a chance to trust in God and listen for the right answer while fearing I’ll make the wrong choice.

The important thing here is that we remember that God is faithful in all His promises. He promised Isaac to Abraham through Sarah, and He delivered. He promised Hagar and Abraham that Ishmael would be made into a great nation, and he was. God has promised that He will never fail us, even when we are fearful that we may fail ourselves. I must learn to accept that I can screw up this decision, but it does not ultimately screw up God’s overriding plan for me.

6 Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." 7 And she added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age." – Genesis 21:6-7

Laughter is such an expression of joy. I think it is great when we can laugh at what God has done for us. I think the laughter here was out of simple amazement at what God can do. When he cares for us against the odds, how we can’t help but marvel at His creation. Sometimes you just want to smile, throw up your hands, and say, “whatever, God. You know what to do.” The same is true for the separation between Ishmael and Abraham. Though he would get along with Isaac, this is the root cause for conflict between Israelis an Muslims to this day. God has a much larger plan here, but we won’t know what it is until it is fulfilled.