Scoffing At The Promise

Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to be his wife. And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  Genesis 25:20-21

God’s chosen family is visiting the grief of barrenness yet again.  History is repeating itself.  God told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but then he and Sarah couldn’t conceive.  God intervened.  Isaac was born.  Then Isaac made Rebekah his wife.  From them would come many nations but Rebekah was barren.  The promise appeared to be nullified yet again.

There have been times God clearly led me in a certain direction. He confirmed and opened doors.  But once on the road, things fell apart.  Prayer seemed stagnant.  I finally engaged every bit of ingenuity to bring about the changes needed.  But the best that I could produce was an Ishmael.  It took a while for me to learn that the God-given destinies are just that ~ God-given ~ Spirit-led.

As you read this, you may be living out this ironic plotline.  God has called you to do something, go somewhere, and He clearly opened the door for you.  You rearranged your life to follow His lead.  Now, all seems dead. Dave Wilkerson calls it ‘the death of a vision.’   Most holy callings visit this temporary place.  You dwell in the land of barrenness and can’t make anything happen no matter how hard you try. 

God is making sure that holy callings stay holy callings.  If I am in a seemingly dead place, the wrong thing is to force something to happen.  The right thing is to stop looking at the calendar and lack of provision.  Rest, worship, and wait patiently with expectation.

I echo the prayer of King Solomon.  ‘I am but a little child and do not know which way to go.’  Infuse my journey today with divine sparks of encouragement.  Amen

Complicated Family Issues

         Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah.  Genesis 25:9

This tiny gem of a verse can be missed.  It’s sitting on the edge of a long genealogical list and normally, it’s the part I’ll skip over.  This morning, the meaning of the sentence hit me. The two brothers had been alienated from each other.  Their estrangement began with fighting and Sarah would have none of it.  She told Abraham to cast out Ishmael, and his mother, from their household.  Hagar and Ishmael nearly died during their exile in the desert and, in fact, would have if an angel hadn’t rescued them.  Did hatred and resentment run deep in Ishmael’s heart? That would be human nature.

And yet in this part of their story, they come together to honor and bury their father.  In their grieving, they found something in common.

How difficult it was to be siblings in the O.T.  Cain killed Abel.  Jacob and Esau’s rift was legendary.  Joseph’s brothers hated him enough to sell him off to slave traders.  Only Moses and Aaron were a successful pair, leading the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Are you at peace with your siblings or are there hurts that run deep? A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred Gates of a citadel.  Proverbs 18:19  Family wounds are old, personal, and usually entrenched.

Not all family wounds will be healed.  It takes two to reconcile and each must deal with the truth of the offenses.  But it only takes one to forgive.  By forgiving, I poise myself on the line of reconciliation and pray for my brother, or sister, to meet me there in truth and humility.

Nothing is too hard for You, Lord.  Reunite and bind together what is broken.  Loose families from grudges, misinformation, and pride.  Amen

Seeing It From A Distance

These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.  Genesis 25:7-8

How many parents die before seeing their children and grandchildren inherit their spiritual blessings?  I have personally seen people hang on at the end because they worried about loved ones.  Can such unrest result in a miraculous peace even though answers to prayer are not yet realized?  Oh, yes.  It’s called faith.

Abraham lived 175 years, yet he didn’t see the long-term promises of God fulfilled.  The writer of Hebrews described it. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar.  Hebrews 11:13 Abraham couldn’t see all his descendants with his physical eyes but he was able to see it with spiritual eyes.  He died peacefully with full assurance of what would come to pass later.

Most of us live in the in-between stages of life, the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet.’ While we wait, how will we wait?  Is there deep frustration with a God who appears to be taking too long to answer or is there confident expectancy in what God will do?  The undercurrent of the first is fear and unbelief.  The foundation of the second is faith. 

I remember talking to a retired missionary couple, mentors to me, about a wayward son who showed no sign of coming back to the Lord.  Over the years, they shed many tears.  But when I asked them about the joy that I sensed, simultaneous to the pain they felt regarding their son’s detour from the kingdom, they quick to assure me.  “We are joyfully confident of what God will do.”  They both died before their son returned to faith, but soon after they died, he did embrace Christ. He has a successful medical practice blessed by God and is passionate about medical mission work.  Both his parents saw his future with spiritual eyes.

God’s waiting room of prayer is the place where faith is cultivated.  Outside of this secret place however, the enemy is very present, attempting to tip the balance of faith toward unbelief and anger.  Faith can win.  How can I be sure of what is unseen?  By believing in the character of God and the promises He’s made.  I must feed my faith with the Word and starve my fears.  Nothing and no one should be able to steal my confidence.

Some of your promises may be fulfilled outside my lifetime.  If I’m not okay with that, show me what I’m missing so that I can find peace.  Amen

Suspended In A Beautiful Moment

And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!  Genesis 24:60

Eleazar enters Rebekah’s home and introduces himself to her family. He tells them why he has come.  Her father and brother acknowledge the hand of God at work and give Rebekah permission to marry Isaac.  As she prepares to leave home, her family bursts forth with this blessing about her future offspring.  They did not, and could not know, that they were speaking the very words God had spoken to Abraham.

Has this ever happened to you?  God spoke a word to you. Deep in your spirit, you heard it.  But then, you second-guessed yourself and wondered if you were mistaken.  The price of acting upon it felt reckless.  You needed to know for sure of God’s call on your life, so you asked Him to confirm it. Then, out of the blue, someone spoke that very word again on the day you put it all on the line with God.  Maybe you heard it in a sermon.  Or it came come from a cashier in a market or it was said over lunch with an acquaintance.  The same words were spoken and you knew that something consequential had happened.  You were trembling and suspended somewhere with God. It was a burning bush moment, and you knew at that moment that you could move ahead without fear.

Rebekah had no idea though that as she heard her family’s blessing, it was identical to the words God spoke to Abraham, her future father-in-law.  Only as she married Isaac would she learn the family story.  She would learn of Abraham’s exodus from Ur.  She would come to know the God who spoke to him and she would understand that her own story was part of the Covenant plotline.

And so it is when I step out to follow God’s path for me. What God leads me to do today may seem small and isolated but with time, I will come to understand that it is connected to the bigger story of redemption.  All my steps are connected by the consummate Storyteller.

Someone reading this today is waiting for You to confirm something.  When you do, they will ‘leave Ur’.  Their steps will go in a new direction and they won’t look back.  Speak, Lord.  Amen

Weaponizing What Is Sacred

And all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. Genesis 24:34

Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, has been raped by the son of the king of Shechem. Her brothers are bent on revenge. Their plan is to compromise the physical strength of the men of Shechem so that they will be able to do them harm without risking their own lives. Specifically, they will feign making a treaty, suggesting that all the men of Shechem be circumcised, leading them to believe that both tribes will share the sacred rite of brotherhood. The trouble is, that circumcision, the sign of the covenant between Jewish people and their God, is being used as a weapon.

To understand how serious this is, think of it this way. You invite a certain person to share communion with you on Sunday and after the service, you take advantage of his proximity to kill him. Shocking to think of it this way.

There are lesser acts of treachery too; praying with someone to learn their secrets, buttering up the pastor for personal gain, marrying someone for money, and making a promise with your fingers crossed behind your back.

Simeon and Levi are the two sons of Jacob that mastermind this scheme. Later, Jacob will give his final blessing to his sons and each will be given land as an inheritance. All except Simeon and Levi. Jacob will not be able to forget what is in the heart of his sons.  He will be right to question their loyalty.  These two brothers will go on to plot unthinkable things against their own brother, Joseph. They will seize him, and toy with murdering him, but instead, will sell him into slavery. They’ll dip his clothes in the blood of an animal and proceed to massacre the heart of their father by saying that a wild beast killed him.

When I perpetrate deceitful acts, even small ones, they corrupt my heart. My response to wrongdoing is deadened. The next time around, it will be easier to do it again. I will not be in touch with the regression. Not until it’s too late.

It is a courageous thing to search my heart and ask some tough questions.  What is being done in the name of Jesus that God would consider treacherous? Where, in the name of God, am I manipulating others and justifying it?

Don’t let me read the stories in scripture, be shocked by their evil, and fail to see my own sin. Let the stories in Your Word be my teacher, Lord. Amen

He Was Not Self-Centered

“Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah. We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”   Genesis 24:23-27

For the most part, we are consumed with ourselves.  Any passion we feel about life has to do with something that directly affects us or our family.  It goes against our nature to fight self-centeredness.  I don’t recall getting something I really wanted as a child and willingly offering it to someone else instead.  I’m sure I clutched it to myself and said, “Mine!” 

What strikes me today about Eleazar is the spontaneous burst of praise that erupted when God confirmed that Rebekah was His choice for Isaac.  Though Isaac was not Eleazar’s own child, he was so elated for his master that he stopped to worship.  It would have been easy to check this mission off his list.

How many people am I this invested in?  Jesus defined discipleship as this:  believing on Him, picking up our cross, then loving His Father and loving others. “No greater love hath any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.”  Eleazar’s whole life revolved around serving Abraham.  It was not done begrudgingly ~ as evidenced by this specific part of the story.  Playing a part in the covenant promise to Abraham and his line of descendants was a high priority and he proved it when he set off on an arduous journey, followed by making a high-stakes choice of a bride for the next patriarch.  Amid this difficult mission, he celebrated as if the success had benefitted him personally.  What love and devotion in action!

Change my selfish heart.   Amen