Genesis 26 shows the power of legacy. Abraham has died and Isaac is living in the land of the Philistines. He is getting things going and God gives him this: “Because Abraham obeyed my summons and kept my charge–my commands, my guidelines, my teachings”. How about that for a truth? Isaac is being blessed because of his dad. Abraham’s obedience carried on to the next generation in real terms. God later says this: “I’ll bless you and make your children flourish because of Abraham my servant”. That is the power of legacy. Isaac does very well – he and his family really flourish and accumulate wealth – so much they are asked to move on and when they do God just blesses them all over again. There is much power in living God’s way – not only for us at the time, but as we pass that on to the generations that follow. Legacy is so important – are you leaving what you want for those who will follow in your footsteps?
Archive for February, 2009
Genesis 25 has a few interesting facts I had forgotten. It begins when Abraham “married a second time”. Totally had forgotten that he had another entire family with his second wife Keturah. He lived to be 175 years old and the thing that stands out are these three simple words: “He died happy”. How many people end life that way? Really dying happy? So many get to the end of life and are filled with things they wish they would have done, or maybe wish they wouldn’t have done. So many don’t end their time on earth happy. In fact, I am convinced many never really find happiness at all. A big part of the problem is they look for it in the wrong place – themselves. We will never find it if we think me, or any other person for that matter, is the source of happiness. God alone can fill the desires of our heart. He alone is worthy and able to fulfill our wants and needs. Yet so often He is the last place, if ever, people go for their happiness. Abraham is buried in the cave he purchased to bury Sarah. And God is faithful to His promise – scripture tells us “God blessed his son Isaac”. What a legacy – to live in a way that God’s blessings flow to his son. The power of legacy is never seen more fully than in the life of Abraham. Ishmael is also talked about in this chapter. His descendents “didn’t get along with any of their kin”. A lot of legacy involved with him as well.
But the rest of the story involves Isaac and his family. Rebekah was not getting pregnant, so scripture tells us that “Isaac prayed hard”. Have you prayed hard? Have you really poured your heart out to God about anything lately? God desires to hear the prayers of our heart, but He wants us to really express ourselves through those prayers. God answers Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah gets pregnant with twins. You may recall the story of Esau and Jacob. Two boys who really were very different. Isaac loved Esau, Rebekah favored Jacob. And Esau traded his birthright as firstborn for a bowl of stew and some bread. Remember? Scripture says it this way: “On oath Esau traded away his rights as the firstborn”. Talk about letting a little physical discomfort drive one to make a very poor decision. Birthright was a big deal in the day. And Esau just let it go because he was hungry. Much more about the impact of that decision in the coming days. Suffice it to say that when we let things like that drive our behavior, it is likely not to be a good decision process.
Genesis 24 tells the story of Isaac finding a wife. But the reality is, he didn’t even play a part in the hunt. Abraham “was now an old man” as scripture says it. I sort of know how he felt. He calls the senior servant on his staff and tells him that Isaac needs a wife, but not one of the local girls, a girl from his homeland. Abraham had been given a vision of how this girl would be identified and sends the senior servant and about 10 others off to find her. They load up the camels with lots of loot and head off to “Aram Naharaim and the city of Nahor”. When they arrive, they stop at the well as this is the place they were going to put God’s plan to the test. But the very first thing they did was pray. He repeats the plan to God and makes it clear that it will be a sign from God when a very special girl comes to the well and “gave him a sip of water….and watered the camels as well”. Rebekah comes to the well almost immediately and does exactly what Abraham had told them would happen. It could not have been clearer had God written it in the skies – this was the one. They ask if there is room at the house for them to stay, and of course there is and Rebekah is “off and running” to tell her family of her new friends and guests for the evening. She has no idea of the plan at this point.
The rest of the story continues like expected. The caravan goes to the home of Betheul and son Laban. They tell the story. “I prayed….she came….I had barely finished offering this prayer….she didn’t hesitate”. It was so obvious to all it was from God that Betheul declared it when asked about Rebekah becoming Isaac’s wife. I love the responses here: Betheul says “This is totally from GOD….Rebekah is yours: Take her and go; let her be the wife of your master’s son, as GOD has made plain”. And “when Abraham’s servant heard their decision, he bowed in worship before GOD”. God was front and center from both men as His plan was so obvious it was impossible to miss. Do you recognize when things are totally from God? Are you paying attention so you would even have a chance of seeing it? They load up Rebekah and head home. As they approach Isaac coming running. After all, he is receiving a wife he has never even seen. But I love how the story unfolds. Check it out: “He married Rebekah and she became his wife and he loved her”. That is God’s plan at its best. Marriage happens between a man and woman. But just like we see in the teaching on marriage in the new testament – the roles are different. Isaac “loved her” – that is what scripture tells us that husbands need to do. Rebekah “became his wife”. Another way to look at that is she came under the authority and protection of Abraham. It aligns with the New Testament teaching so well. God is so big. And He really does have a perfect plan for marriage and how that divine relationship is supposed to work. Oh that we would learn to live the way he designed our marriages to be . He is in control. He wants control of our marriages. Are you letting Him have it?
Genesis 23 tells of Sarah’s death. Abraham mourned her death and then needed to bury her. But he didn’t have a burial plot. He goes to the Hittites, in whose land he was, and asked for their help in getting here a proper burial plot. He had a specific cave selected and wanted to purchase it from Ephron, son of Zohar. The chapter contains the story of how they bargained back and forth, Ephron wanting to give it, Abraham wanting to pay for it. Finally they settle on “four hundred shekels” which became the price Abraham paid. The transaction occurred in the presence of the town council. Abraham took over the property and buried Sarah, who was 127 years old when she died. This is a story of two very polite and insistent men. Ephron did not attempt to take advantage of the situation Abraham was in – needing a place to bury his wife. And Abraham did not take advantage of a man who felt a bit obligated I would expect to meet his request. There is goodness on both sides and a mutually fair arrangement was made. It shows the value of treating people well, of being fair in our dealings. And the fact it was done in public in front of all to see was a good witness to their dealings as well. Taking advantage of another is not God’s plan. We all need to be fair in how we deal, and to do it openly and honestly.
Genesis 22 is a chapter that defines obedience for us. It is a very familiar story, and one that really challenges our thinking about God’s expectations for our obedience. Abraham now has a son Isaac. God decides to test Abraham and calls out to him. The first thing that impresses me is that Abraham is listening. “Yes….I’m listening” is his response. Would you hear God if He spoke to you? Are you plugged in and listening to His still soft voice? Or are you so wrapped up in the busyness of life that God could yell and you would miss it? That certainly describes me some days. But Abraham did hear and God asks him to take his son up on the mountain and sacrifice him. Not a simple request. He waited over 100 years to have a son and now he get a request from God to “sacrifice him as a burnt offering”. What would have been your response? I imagine I would have argued a bit – questioned God on why – and been filled with disbelief He would ask that. But Abraham had prepared and had “split wood for the burnt offering”. They loaded up and headed up the mountain. Along the way Isaac asked “where is the sheep” which tells me he was not just a baby at this time. He understood the basics of worship and sacrifice. Abraham answers and proceeds to set up an altar, tie up Isaac and prepare to sacrifice his life. Wow – that is obedience at full speed. That is complete and total. Of course some angels talk to Abraham as his knife is prepared to kill Isaac and again Abraham replies: “I am listening”. Good thing, or it would have been too late. Had he missed this communication Isaac would have been dead. So what is the result of obedience? Check out what God says here: “because you have gone through with this….I’ll bless you–oh, how I’ll bless you”. Do you see the parallel here? Obedience brings blessing. Because Abraham listened and obeyed great things happened and still are to his offspring. God expects and requires obedience. Don’t miss the impact it can have.
Genesis 21 is a big chapter in the life of Abraham and Sarah. God has promised a son be born to them, and “God did….what He promised”. 100 year old dad and 90 plus year old mother. That is a miracle for sure. Scripture gives us this record of the timing: it happened “at the very time God had set”. It was God’s plan and happened on God’s timeline. He is in control of all. Why didn’t Sarah have a child much earlier? It wasn’t God’s time and because of this plan – God is glorified. How else would a woman that old give birth? They name him Isaac and he is the father of many descendents. Of course the jealousy continues with Hagar and Ishmael and Sarah tells – she didn’t ask – Abraham to get rid of her and the boy. God assures Abraham it will be ok so he packs up “some food and a canteen of water” and sends them away. They head off into the desert and it looks pretty bleak. They are out of water and Hagar thinks they are going to die.
But God hears her plea and assures here it will be fine. Check out what happens: “Just then God opened her eyes. She looked. She saw a well of water”. Middle of the desert. Almost dead. God comes through with another miracle. He didn’t give it to her until she needed it. He didn’t give it to her until she asked. She had been sobbing and likely not even looking any longer – had given up. But when she looked – there it was. He absolutely was listening, was in control, and met the need head on with more than enough. “God was on the boy’s side as he grew up”. Never wonder if God is around. He is. He knows. He listens. He acts. Sometimes though, He waits for us to ask, to believe, and to obey. The power of communicating with God can’t be measured in our terms. He is in control. We need to line up with His plan and we do that as we pray and obey!
Genesis 20 is an interesting chapter about Abraham and Sarah. Abraham and his family have moved on to Negev and settled. They are in a new place and when the locals show up to see who has moved in, “Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She’s my sister.”” So Abimelech, the king sent for and took her. He didn’t know any differently and was looking for another good woman. God intervenes and tells Abimelech that it was a bad plan to sleep with Sarah. So bad in fact, that his life was in jeopardy and would be taken if he did. Of course Abimelech back pedals as fast as he can and blames Abraham for lying to him about Sarah being his sister rather than his wife. Then Abimelech confronts Abraham about the issue at hand – TRUTH. Of course Abraham has his reasons and excuses: “I just assumed that there was no fear of God in this place…..besides, the truth is that she is my half sister”. You see any issues here. Finger pointing, excuses, half truths, lots of things that just really don’t fit in God’s plan for TRUTH.
So what is a lie? That is really the crux of the matter here. I love what the Clarke Commentary says “It is any action done or word spoken, whether true or false in itself, which the doer or speaker wishes the observer or hearer to take in a contrary sense to that which he knows to be true. It is, in a word, any action done or speech delivered with the intention to deceive, though both may be absolutely true and right in themselves”. Abraham told part of the truth. But he failed to mention the most important part – that Sarah was his wife. Why? Because he was afraid for his life. Seems like a justified position doesn’t it? Not in God’s economy. Abraham assumed. He figured that the place he was was godless and would mistreat him so that justified his actions didn’t it? Seems like a logical conclusion. But not in God’s sight. The reality is that Abraham set up Abimelech to do something that would have cost him and his family their lives. A little white lie – call it a half truth if you want – but it wasn’t TRUTH. It also would have ended their heritage as “God had shut down every womb in Abimelech’s household”. Simple little half truth – look at the potential for damage here. People die, generations would never be born. Be careful little mouth what you say….or don’t say. TRUTH is God’s complete expectation. Anything less falls short of His requirement. In clear words – that is sin!
Genesis 19 is a sad story of what happens when people sin and face the wrath of God. Sodom and Gomorrah were towns filled with sin, and God had enough. He sends a couple of his angels to town to destroy it, but they first find Lot and they spend the night with him. After a rather ugly confrontation with the townspeople who want to cause harm to his guests, Lot is instructed in the morning to get out of town with his family before destruction comes. He had witnessed God’s power through his visitors the evening before when God struck all those blind who had come to inflict harm. It wasn’t a mystery any longer who these two were. So I would have expected Lot to high tail it out of town on their command. But not so fast, he first wants to argue about it. Initially it is fear of leaving at all, then fear of where they asked him to go – up into the mountains. Listen to what he says and see if it sounds vaguely familiar to anything we might say: “who knows what terrible thing might happen to me in the mountains and leave me for dead”. OK – these guys tell him the city is going to be wiped out and he wants to argue about where they ask him to go? The choice was stay here and be destroyed or go somewhere else where there is a chance to live. Seems so obvious to me it was time to get out of there. But I can imagine I do the same over and over when God gives me direction. Hmmm….how about my way God. I know that you are the creator and controller of the universe, but how about we do it my way since I know more and better than you. Sound familiar – I know I am like that some times. I want to be in control and I let fear control my response.
Fortunately Lot finally left town. He had convinced his guests to let him go to the next little town rather than into the mountains as they asked. But they did give him very strict instructions: “Don’t look back”. They didn’t give any consequences at the time, but they were extremely clear it was time to run and keep running without turning around. You may remember what happened: “But Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt”. That had to be a heartbreaking result. Disobedience doesn’t always bring an immediate and powerful consequence, but it always has one. We should never assume that God will let us get away with sin, because He can’t and won’t. We may not become salt, but we will pay a price when we disobey. Sodom and Gomorrah found out the hard way when God “blasted those cities off the face of the Earth”. Oh how we need to learn the lessons of obedience.
Genesis 18 has a couple key lessons we want to camp on. First – God and a couple others appear to Abraham while he is sitting by his tent during the hottest part of the day. It was uncomfortable and Abraham was resting and trying to stay cool. But when God shows up Abraham springs into action and asks if he can serve Him. Note what happens after God says they will be glad to get a drink and a meal. “Abraham hurried to the tent”. He didn’t wander slowly – he saw a need – found an opportunity to serve and sprang into action. He went all out too. Had Sarah bake the bread, one of his servants slaughter the calf, got it all cooked up and fed them. That is action – that is true serving. He saw a need and made it happen. Now – not later. On their time, not his. Too often serving is something we do if convenient or it fits our schedule. We do it if there seems to be something in it for us. Serving means we just do – we see a need or opportunity and we focus on that, not self.
One of the messages that God has for Abraham is that he will become the father of many nations. Of course, Sarah being over 90 years old, laughs inside at the thought. But God takes offense to that and this verse is one we all need to realize and cling to: “Is anything too hard for GOD”? The obvious answer is no. Nothing is too hard for God and we certainly should never give up on His ability. God can do anything He chooses. We just need to line up with what His will is. God reveals why He has selected Abraham as the father of many nations: “I’ve settled on him as the one to train his children and future family to observe GOD’s way of life, live kindly and generously and fairly”. Want to know how to please God as a parent? Train your children for God’s way of life and to live kindly, generously and fairly. That is our charge as parents serving the Master.
The third key thing in this chapter revolves around Abraham’s actions when God talks about wiping out Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham serves as an intercessor. An intercessor is one who stands between God and another, and in this case, it is a literal thing. “Abraham stood in GOD’s path, blocking his way”. That is serious intercession, but what we need to be willing to do as we intercede for others. It requires we have a right relationship with God. We are confessed up, forgiven, and walking with Him. But if we are truly going to pray for others, we need to be willing to truly intercede on their behalf. That means we take up their interest as our own. We put their best ahead of self. We take on their situation and pray on their behalf. Scripture tells us Jesus is doing that for us today as believers. But we need to learn to pray like this, and have a relationship that allows us to face God and intercede. Are you an intercessor? Are you willing to stand in God’s path?
Genesis 17 is about God’s covenant with Abraham. Twice is this chapter, as God speaks to him, scripture tells us that “Abram fell flat on his face”. When is the last time you were flat on your face before God? When is the last time you were down on your knees? For some of us getting back up is the challenge, but getting flat on our face is certainly something we need to do. God desires us to get with him and have relationship. Abram gets his new name in this chapter – God begins to call him Abraham – “father of many nations”. A covenant relationship is established and god tells him there will be many decendants. Of course, Abraham laughs when God tells him he will father a son. He was 99 and Sarah 90 – didn’t seem probable. But with God all things are possible and in spite of Abrahams doubt, God continues. After the discussion finished Abraham again shows obedience and goes and circumcises himself and his household…..ouch. But obedience and covenant – that is the key to this chapter. It is all because of relationship. Abraham listens and acts. We see it time and again!