A Reluctant Writer

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Follow Me: He Remembered

sodom_gomorrah_2Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 19[1]

When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah he remembered Abraham.[2] Fearful the judge of all the earth would destroy the righteous with the wicked Abraham had pleaded with God for restraint. At Abraham’s request, God agreed to spare the entire city if he could find ten righteous people living there.

If Abraham believed it was wrong to sweep away the righteous with the wicked[3] why did he stop at ten. Was it okay to sweep away nine righteous people with the wicked? Nine righteous people may have been expendable to Abraham, but not to God. God does not kill the righteous with the wicked. He does not treat the righteous and the wicked alike. He is the judge of all the earth and he will do right.[4]

Sodom and Gomorrah were two of five cities marked for destruction. Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela (later called Zoar) were also on the list to be destroyed. God delayed the destruction of these wicked cities until ONE righteous man was safe. And God was more gracious than Abraham could imagine. When the men of Sodom accosted Lot’s home intent on gang raping the newcomers, Lot’s guest’s revealed their mission. They were angels that God sent to destroy the cities. Lot and everyone who belonged to him would be saved if they left. Lot spent the rest of the night trying to persuade his extended family of the impending danger, but they did not take him serious. When Lot refused to leave the angels took them by the hand, escorted them out of the city and said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”[5]

By this time Lot was exhausted. What had started as a pleasant evening entertaining guest, turned into an immoral onslaught from his neighbors. He made his way through the mob blinded by the angels to be mocked by his family. He had already lost everything he owned in a war once and now faced the prospect of losing everything again. Then the angels dragged him out of Sodom and told him to run to the mountains.

A physically and emotionally drained righteous man complained he would not make it to the mountains before disaster fell. Then Lot had what he thought was a better solution than God’s. “Let me go to Zoar. It’s a small town and I will be safe there.” God, who is easy to be entreated, said Okay. As soon as Lot stepped into the city of Zoar “the Lord rained down burning sulfur” on Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim but not Zoar. God who is easy to be entreated spared an entire city marked for destruction for the sake of ONE righteous man.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 19:29

[3] Genesis 18:23

[4] Genesis 18:25

[5] Genesis 19:17

Follow Me: Evil Perceptions

abe interceedsObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 18[1]

God returned with two angels less than a year after he told Abraham when the long awaited child would be born. They waited patiently while Abraham provided water to wash their feet and prepare a meal. While they ate God repeated Sarah would have a son next year. Initially God only spoke about the child but had not told Abraham when. This was the second time God gave him when the child would be born.

Sarah who had been listening at the door laughed in disbelief. Abraham had also laughed in disbelief a few months earlier. Apparently, both of them thought God was delusional. In the face of unbelief and arrogance, God never wavered from his plan for them. Instead, he asked why Sarah mocked him with laughter and, for the third time, repeated Sarah would have a son at the appointed time. When Sarah also called God a liar, saying, “I did not laugh” he rebuked her. “Yes, you did laugh.”[2]

As they were leaving, God repeated that all nations would be blessed through Abraham. Apparently, Abraham would accomplish that task by teaching everyone in his home to keep the “way of the Lord” by doing what is “right and just”. Righteousness was imputed to Abraham when he believed the Lord would multiply his seed into a great multitude, which implies doing what is “right and just” has a lot to do with faith God will keep his word.

Having affirmed he will keep his promise and that he has confidence in Abraham to do the right thing, God turned his attention from the future to the present. He was on his way to Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus said a servant does not know what his master does, but a friend does. God treated Abraham like a friend when he told him he was on his way to investigate the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s interesting to note that God will not act on our word alone. If we have a complaint, he will check things out for himself.

Abraham was concerned God might do the wrong thing and stepped in to intercede for the righteous, not for Lot, for the righteous. “Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”[3] Did Abraham really believe God would slaughter everybody without a thought to his own that might be living in the area? How could Abraham ask this question without exalting himself as more right and pure than  God?

God listened to the insult and assured Abraham he would spare the wicked if he found fifty righteous people living among them. Abraham brought the number down in increments of five until he reached ten righteous people. Why did Abraham stop at ten? Do nine righteous people deserve to die with the wicked?

I am amazed at God’s patience, perseverance and faithfulness. God never tried to defend himself or correct Abraham’s evil perceptions. Abraham had interceded because he was concerned about Lot, but so was God.

 

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 18:15

[3] Genesis 18:25

Follow Me: Circumcision

Flint knife used to circumcise in ancient times.

Flint knife used to circumcise in ancient times.

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 17[1]

God appeared to Abram a year before Sarai became pregnant to set things in order. When he finished telling Abram each person’s responsibilities, Abram, now called Abraham, treated God like he was stupid. God’s plan would never work. A hundred year old man and ninety year old woman would never have a child. Why was God still talking about the impossible?

Abraham directed God’s attention to the solution, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Abraham’s request was thirteen years too late. God’s intent is to include everyone in his blessings. He blessed Ishmael before Ishmael was born and gave him everything he gave Isaac with the exception of being in the lineage of the Messiah. God’s instruction to circumcise every male should have made God’s intentions to bless everyone clear.

In the presence of arrogance, God responded with patient kindness. He repeated that Sarah would have a son and instructed them to name the child Isaac.  “My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year,”[2] is the last thing God said to Abraham.

Abraham had a decision. Walk away in disbelief. Allow anger and bitterness to take root over the rejection of his solution. Believe God could do the impossible. Accept his painful terms by cutting off a piece of flesh from the most sensitive area of a man’s body.

Before the sun set, Abraham humbled himself. He sharpened a knife and ordered the men in his house to line up for circumcision. According to God’s desires, Abraham included everyone who had become a part of his house whether born or from a foreign land in the promises God made to him and one seed – Jesus.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 17:16

Follow Me: Land

Holy LandObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 17[1]

In God’s fifth appearance to Abram, he opened the conversation rebuking Abram for the attempt to fulfill God’s purpose with a human plan. If we want to be blameless, we need to do things God’s way. Sarai’s way produced generations of misery for everyone involved.

This is the first time scripture records Abram “fell facedown”[2] in God’s presence. Was Abram frightened by the rebuke or had he finally learned to reverence God’s presence? There is no way to know for sure, but one thing is certain. The long wait to obtain the son God’s promised was near its end. Before God fulfilled his promise to give Abram a son by Sarai, he clearly defined the responsibilities of each person by saying “As for me”, “As for you”, and “As for Sarai.”[3]

From this point on, Abram will be called Abraham. People from many nations will call him father. These people will establish nations and some of them will become kings. The covenant between God, Abraham and the seed the promises were made to (Jesus) is everlasting. The land wherein Abraham lived in as a foreigner would be given to them as an everlasting possession. The God who created all things will be their God.

As for Abraham, every male must be circumcised as a sign of the covenant God made with him. God included those born into Abraham’s family and those who became a part of the family by other means in his covenant. He also put the sign in a private place for his eyes only.

As for Sarai, she will be called Sarah. God’s blessings will rest upon her and she will give birth to a son. Nations and kings will come from her as well.

Land on earth, nations, kings and a sign for God’s eyes only does not sound like the gospel I’ve been taught by man. I’ve heard sermons about our hearts being circumcised. I’ve been taught that God has made us kings and we are a nation, but what about the land on earth? If Christ redeemed us “in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,”[4] our ultimate destination is not heaven but becoming an eternal nation on earth.

 

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 17:3

[3] Genesis 17:4, 9, 15

[4] Galatians 3:14

Follow Me: Blameless

Abram IshmaelObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 17[1]

God had a lot to say to Abram in Chapter 17. He started the conversation with a rebuke.

I am Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.[2]

To Abram fourteen years had elapsed since the last time God spoke to him. As God perceives time a mere twenty minutes after Abram and Sarai produced a son to fulfill God’s plan he rebuked Abram for listening to “the flesh”, Sarai, to accomplish what “the Spirit” of God had promised to do.

When God speaks he will bring what he spoke to pass. If we are not faithful to wait for God, we will be the antonym of blameless – impeachable. Some synonyms for impeachable are: reprehensible, dirty, at fault, in the wrong, punishable, sinful, and unholy.[3]

God did not need Sarai’s help. Sarai’s plan wronged a servant girl and made both of their lives miserable. Abram’s compliance and then indifference toward a person suffering under his authority created generations of misery. God loves his people, but he will not close his eyes when they sin in his name. They will be judged.

The way we do things is important. If Abram had waited for God to fulfill his promise, we might not have Al Qaeda and ISIS today. God’s way wrongs no one. He has the power and the time to accomplish his purposes without using and abusing people.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 17:1-2

[3] http://thesaurus.com/browse/impeachable

Follow Me: Abused

HagarObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 16[1]

Ten years after Abram and Sarai moved to Canaan, God came to Abram in a vision promising protection and reward. He also made a covenant with Abram to guarantee the fulfilment of his promises. Before the year ended, Sarai and Abram abused a servant in their quest to obtain what God had promised them.

Sarai did not believe she would ever have a baby, so she resorted to an acceptable practice in their day. She used her servant Hagar as a surrogate. Society’s acceptance of a practice does not make it right in God’s eyes. Hagar had no choice but to submit to the desires of the rich and powerful.

Sarai’s plan to obtain the son God spoke of backfired. Hagar did not appreciate being used and treated Sarai with contempt. Sarai complained to her husband. This wasn’t Abram’s plan, and he did not want to be bothered. “You deal with it,” he said. Sarai had the power to make Hagar’s life a misery and she did. Hagar had enough of being used and abused. She fled, but had nowhere to go.

God knew his people acted badly and took pity on Hagar. He dispatched an angel to make right the wrongs committed by his people. The Angel delivered both good and bad news that gives us insight into God’s character.

The bad news first: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”[2] Running away from a problem seldom works. Hagar had been abused but confronting abuse with abuse by treating Sarai with contempt made Hagar no better than Sarai. She must return and reconcile with Sarai.

The good news: “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”[3] Then God compensated Hagar for the misery that had been inflicted upon her. He named her son Ishmael and said Ishmael would live in hostility toward all his brothers. Those who created misery in her life would also know misery. The numerous children of Ishmael became a thorn in the side of the numerous children of Isaac. That hostility continues to the present day.

God gave Hagar everything he gave Abram. Isaac’s son Jacob had twelve sons who became a great multitude. Ishmael had twelve sons who became a great multitude.[4]   God also gave Hagar and her children the promises he made Abram, because those promises never belonged exclusively to one family. Generations would elapse before the son God had in mind would enter the world. Hagar and her children could obtain the promises the same way Abram did. Through faith in the one seed we can inherit the promises from – Jesus.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 16:9

[3] Genesis 16:10

[4][4] 1 Chronicles 1:29

Follow Me: Obsession

Promised-Land1Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 15[1]

The facet of Christianity I’ve been exposed to is obsessed with going to Heaven; a “place” we know little about. The Bible offers sparse details. The place called heaven is somewhere in the northern sky. Some individuals who have had after death experiences speak of light, love, beauty and family that have gone before them. Jesus said he was returning to his father in heaven to prepare a place for us. The last time his disciples saw Jesus, he ascended into the clouds. But the Bible concludes with everyone including Jesus coming back to earth.

In contrast to my experience in Christianity, God is obsessed with one son and land on earth. He promised one seed of Abram, who Christians call Lord Jesus, land on earth. He also promised land to Abram, but Abram has no greater prospects of possessing the land than he has of Sarai bearing a child.

After God affirmed that one of Abram’s children would become more numerous than the stars in the sky, he returned to the subject of land. “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it,” he said to Abram. The man who believed his seed would be more numerous than the stars of the sky wasn’t so sure about possessing land.

Abram wanted an assurance he would possess the land. God responded by making a covenant.[2] Animals were cut in two and both parties walked between the animals invoking as they did so that a violator of the covenant would be cut in two as the animals were. Therefore, if God does not do what he said, he must be killed. Since no one is more powerful than God, the enforcement of this covenant rest solely on God’s integrity.

Before God passed between the pieces of animals, he delivered a bittersweet message to Abram. For 400 years Abram’s family would be strangers on land they do not possess. A clear indication Abram will die without possessing the land God promised. The news gets worse before it gets better. At some point within those 400 years Abram’s family will be enslaved and mistreated. But God concludes on a positive note. Abram will die in peace after living a long life. God himself will punish the nation that mistreats Abram’s children, and they will return to Canaan with great possessions.

God also cited a good reason for the delay in taking possession of the land. “The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”[3] A tyrant would drive the people from the land or exterminate them without just cause. God does not operate like a tyrant. By the time Abram’s children returned the Amorites were in a state of complete apostasy. When Abram’s children arrived to possess the land God deflated any notions that they were in some way superior to others. Moses warned the people before they crossed Jordan,

After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord you God will drive them out before you…”[4]

Clearly, God’s plan is much greater than the brief time and space Abram occupies on planet earth. Abram played a part in the plan, but that is all. At this point in his life, I doubt he understood his part. In fact his faith may have been shaken when God covenanted to give the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River not to Abram but to that nonexistent, impossible to produce child.

God answered Abram’s question, “How do I know I will possess the land?” by preaching a gospel of grace. God gave the land to one of Abram’s future descendants who remained sinless. A gospel of grace sets the responsibility of keeping a covenant with God upon one person willing to include a multitude more numerous than the stars of the sky in the promises of God. Christians call him Jesus.

 

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Making a covenant by walking between animals cut in two is also referenced in Jeremiah 34:18.

[3] Genesis 15:16

[4] Deuteronomy 9:4-5

Follow Me: A Righteous Man

CH09 starsObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 15[1]

Chapter 15 contains a long conversation between God and Abram. God promised to reward Abram but Abe’s not buy it. Everything God promised since Abram arrived in Canaan is contingent on a child. At this point, a servant will inherit Abram’s wealth when Abram dies. “What can you give me since I remain childless…” eighty-five year-old Abram complained.[2] His seventy-five year-old wife can no longer bear children making his complaint reasonable.

An honest question prompted an honest answer. God assured Abram that his servant would not be his heir, “but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” But God was not talking about a son to inherit Abram’s earthly wealth. The son on God’s mind never inherited anything that belonged to Abram. God had in mind a son who would inherit the promises of God. Those promises gave one of Abram’s children more than Abram could imagine.

God had more on his mind than one son who could give everything to without showing partiality. He had promised to make Abram a blessing to all families of the earth. To reinforce that point, God brought Abram outside and challenged him to do the impossible. Count the stars in the sky. Abram and his son will become more numerous than the stars of the sky.

Abram believed God planned to include everyone in the fulfillment of his promises, and God credited it to him as righteousness. Abram was willing to share, and that made Abram a righteous man.

 

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 15:2-3

Follow Me: I Am Your Reward

abraham_kings243x150Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 15[1]

God included Abram in the promises to the one seed (Jesus) and then remained silent for nine years. To Abram close to a decade had elapsed. To God a mere 15 minutes later[2] he made a specific promise to Abram. “I am your shield, your very great reward.”

What has Abram done to merit a reward? He came to Canaan decades after God spoke to him in Ur and only after his father died. He built altars but did not believe God, and traveled to Egypt to see if they had something better. He deceived Pharaoh who threw him out of Egypt. Abram returned to the altar he built at Bethel still living in disobedience. He had not followed God’s initial instructions to separate from his extended family. He finally parted company with Lot but only to stop their employees from fighting. Abram needs protection but a reward?

Reward has an interesting definition. The Hebrew word means payment of contract, salary, or compensation.[3] God promised to pay Abram for a service. Two words, “After this,” are the only clue regarding the service Abram provided. After what?

The kings of Canaan were quarreling with one another before Abram moved to Canaan. Four kings had turned five kings into puppet rulers. Abram had formed an alliance with three brothers, but there is no indication he participated when the five kings rebelled. In the war that followed the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled leaving their citizens defenseless. The citizens of Sodom including Lot were taken captive.

News of Lot’s misfortune prompted Abram to action. Four men with a righteous cause succeeded where five wicked kings failed. When Abram and his allies fought to release one righteous man from captivity, they set the entire city free.

The king of Sodom came out of hiding when Abram returned with the captives and their possessions. The king told Abram to keep the captive’s possessions as payment. All he wanted was the people. Apparently, the people had no say in what happened to them and their possessions. Abram refused. He had sworn an oath to the Lord to accept nothing for his services lest an earthly king boast that he had made Abram rich.

After these things, God assured Abram that he would not only protect him but also pay him. Lot should have stayed at Ur or remained in Haran. Following a man who failed to obey God brought sorrow into his life. When Abram fought for his brother in the Lord, God counted it a service worthy of payment.[4]

 

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] http://www.divinecoders.com/thousand-years-as-one-day.php

[3] H7939 , שׂכר, śâkâr, saw-kawr’ From H7986; payment of contract; concretely salary, fare, maintenance; by implication compensation, benefit: – hire, price, reward [-ed], wages, worth.

[4] Lot is called a righteousness man in the New Testament. 2 Peter 2:7-8

Follow Me: You and Your Seed

Bethel altarObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 13[1]

The first time Abram heard God’s voice, he was living in Ur of the Chaldees. He heard God’s voice the second time after he obeyed part of God’s instructions. At the second encounter, Abram remained an outsider. Someone who had knowledge of God’s plan but wasn’t included. God spoke again after Abram and Sarai returned from Egypt. This time he included Abram in his promise.

“All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring.”[2]

“Go, Walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”[3]

Abram’s experience in Egypt had humbled him. He returned to the altar he had abandoned at Bethel to renew his relationship with God. As Abram called upon the name of the Lord, a quarrel erupted between his employees and Lot’s. He resolved the problem by seeking peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  Abram’s unselfish pursuit of peace separated him from Lot bringing him into God’s perfect will for his life.

The third time God spoke, Abram had become a peacemaker with every request God made of him fulfilled. God now has two sons to inherit the land – Abram and a child of Abram yet to be born, but God’s plan encompasses more than two men. He intends to make Abram’s “offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your (Abram’s) offspring could be counted.”[4]

God exhorted Abram to “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west” and “Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land…””[5] Abram followed God but not blindly. He had enough knowledge to make his trip to Canaan reasonable. Now that he is included in God’s plan, he can see and explore the land God desires to give him.

 

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 13:15

[3] Genesis 13:17

[4] Genesis 13:16

[5] Genesis 13:14,17

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