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Follow Me: I See Two Babies

twins-664x442Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 25:19-26[1]

Isaac willingly laid down his life believing God would raise him from the dead. Abraham had the knife in hand to make Isaac a sacrificial offering when God stopped them. God’s intervention made one thing abundantly clear. Isaac was not the “one seed” the fulfillment of the promises belonged to. Isaac was not the king of the city God is building. He was born through divine intervention but he was not superior to anyone else. He thought he would walk down the mountain clothed in immortality. He walked down the mountain a mere mortal with a promise God would keep his word.

Abraham and Isaac returned home to break the news to Sarah. Sorry, you did not give birth to the Messiah. Seven years later, Sarah died and Isaac married a barren woman. Isaac heard God swear an oath to multiply them into a great multitude, yet twenty years of marriage later Isaac and Rebekah had not produced one child. God’s actions speak louder than his words. The multitude God promised will not come through Isaac because Isaac was not the “one seed” everyone, Jew and Gentile, will inherit the promises from.

God had not promised Isaac that Rebekah would have a child as he had promised Abraham Sarah would have a child. Isaac was sixty years old when he prayed for a child. God responded by giving him twins, but Isaac and Rebekah did not know twins were in her womb. When the children wrestled within her, she asked God why there was so much activity in her womb.

God’s response tells us volumes about God and how he thinks.

Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger. Genesis 25:23

If I had looked at the ultrasound, I would have told Rebekah not to worry. Two babies are wrestling for space in your womb. God looked in her womb and saw two nations. This is one reason God’s words can be difficult to understand. God and I look at the same things but we don’t see the same things.

The Hebrew words translated elder and younger in verse 23 have another meaning – greater in number and few in number. The nation Esau became would be greater in number of citizens but they will serve the nation Jacob/Israel became with fewer citizens. Israel has always been a small nation but that won’t stop them from ruling the world when the “one seed” the promises were made to returns to rule the world.

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

Follow Me: A Test of Faith

TestObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 22[1]

Abraham never found the city designed and built by God that he was looking for when he left Ur of the Chaldees. Instead God appeared to him talking about a son. The birth of Isaac 25 years after Abraham arrived in Canaan began the genealogy that led to the “one seed” on God’s mind. Abraham spent most of his life learning the only way to obtain the city was through the son God spoke about.

Three years after the birth of Isaac, God told Abraham to listen to his wife. Send Hagar and Ishmael away. If God spoke between the time he told Abraham to listen to his wife and the day he told Abraham to sacrifice his “only son”, his words were not recorded.

At some point, Abraham understood that he would have to be resurrected from the dead to obtain the city God is building. Many years later, the Apostle Paul came to the same realization and wrote “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”[2]

God tested the sincerity of Abraham’s faith when he told Abraham to sacrifice his “only son”. Abraham teaches us the only kind of faith that pleases God, imparts salvation and justifies us. This kind of faith requires you to “believe in your heart that God raised him [Jesus] from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”[3]

Abraham believed God would raise the dead. He expected to offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice when he reached Moriah. The journey gave him three days to think about it. When they arrived at the mountain, he spoke his faith that God can and would raise the dead. He told his servants to stay with the donkey and said, “We will worship and then we will come back to you.”[4] Clearly, Abraham expected to return home with Isaac.

It is important to note that Abraham could not have obeyed God without Isaac’s willing compliance. Isaac was 33 years old when he went to Moriah with his father. He understood that his father planned to kill him and burn his body. Isaac also believed God would raise the dead. That agreement gave Abraham the strength to obey God. He could not have done it any other way.

When Abraham and Isaac’s actions proved their faith was genuine God stopped them and swore an oath he would fulfill everything he promised. Yet neither Abraham nor Isaac saw the promises fulfilled. Abraham lived another 42 years. Buried Sarah and married Keturah who gave him six sons. Isaac married a barren woman. After 40 years of marriage, divine intervention gave them two sons.

They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. They looked for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they longed for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God was not ashamed to be called their God for he has prepared a city for them.[5]

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

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:19

[3] Romans 10:9-10

[4] Genesis 22:5

[5] Most of this paragraph is a paraphrase of Hebrews 11:13-16

Follow Me: A Promise Fulfilled

sarahandisaac googleObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 21[1]

Twenty-five years after Abraham arrived in Canaan his barren wife Sarah gave birth to a son. Sarah was thrilled. She credited God for her joy and then asked a ridiculous question. “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? How quickly Sarah forgot. God said to Abraham that Sarah would give birth to a child more than once. Every time he said it, they laughed in disbelief.

Now that Sarah had given birth to a son, she no longer needed Ishmael. When she saw 17 year old Ishmael mocking his 3 year old brother, Sarah demanded her husband to send away the slave and her son. To Sarah he was a means to an end that God rejected. But God only rejected Sarah’s plan not the man.

Before Ishmael was born God told Hagar he would make right the wrongs committed against her by his people. Twice he told Abraham Ishmael would not be forgotten. After God agreed with Sarah’s demand “to send away the salve woman and her son”, he told Hagar a second time he would make right the wrongs done to her and Ishmael. Ishmael would become a great nation too, but not the nation that produces “the seed” God made his promises to. Ishmael was included in those promises when Abraham circumcised him as a sign of the covenant God had with Abraham. The intent of the sign was the inclusiveness of God’s plan, but the sign did not save them.

If Ishmael had understood what lay ahead for the sons of Isaac there might not be so much hatred toward Israel today. Ishmael’s descendants lived in their homeland for centuries multiplying into a great nation that far outnumbers the nation of Israel. Both Isaac and his sons lived as foreigners with no land to call their own for 400 years. When they finally became a nation, they were doomed to failure before they possessed one inch of the Promised Land. After 300 years of being ruled by mostly corrupt kings who did not obey God, they became foreigners again with no place to call their own. Then millions of them were slaughtered by the Nazis sending them back to the Promised Land where they became a nation surrounded by people who hate them and would gladly slaughter all of them.  When will Ishmael see that God has never shown unwarranted favoritism to Isaac and his descendants?

The Apostle Paul compared Hagar and Sarah to the covenant of grace and the covenant of law to dispel the belief that circumcision will save you.[2] The child of the free woman who represents grace, Isaac, and the child of the salve who represents law, Ishmael, were circumcised. But circumcision did not save them. Paul called circumcision a yoke of slavery. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”[3]

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

[2] Galatians Chapter 4-5

[3] Galatians 5:6

Follow Me: Sin Committed in Ignorance

Liar!Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 20[1]

God had been talking about a son Sarah would bear for 25 years. The year Abraham turned 99 God appeared to him with new and exciting information. The child would be born the following year and they must name him Isaac. Abraham did not believe God and suggested Ishmael as a suitable candidate. But God wasn’t interested in a human plan. God returned again before the year ended. Again he told Abraham the time the child would be born. This time Sarah laughed in unbelief, and then lied about it.

Within a short span of time God confirmed twice the time of Isaac’s birth and then destroyed the wicked in preparation for Isaac’s arrival. Yet Abraham did not believe God would keep his word. He still felt the need to lie in order to protect himself from death. After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he went to Gerar and told King Abimelek that Sarah was his sister. The king took Sarah to be his wife. Abraham already did this in Egypt and was rebuked by Pharaoh. Apparently, he had not changed much.

We don’t know how Pharaoh learned Abraham lied. We do know how the King Abimelek learned the truth. God told him Abraham and Sarah had lied to him. He did not tell the king what to do. He simply made him aware of the consequences if he did not return Sarah to her husband.

Abimelek knew God had destroyed four cities for being wicked and was concerned his would be the fifth. He pointed out that he had been lied to and had not taken Sarah into his bed yet. Therefore, he had done nothing wrong. His conscience was clear. His hands were clean.

Then Abimelek learned why he had not satisfied his lust with Sarah. God knew he had been deceived and acted with a clear conscience. That is why God kept him from sinning. Then God gave Abimelek a choice. Return Sarah to my lying prophet who does not believe what I say. He will pray for you, and I will honor his prayer by forgiving the sin you committed in ignorance. If Abimelek chose to keep Sarah, the offence would no longer be innocent. Abimelek and his entire family would die.

Abimelek exhibited a great deal of humility allowing someone who lied to him and complicated his life to pray for him. Abraham lied but not with malicious intent. He lied because he was afraid to die. For the second time Abraham learned that his fear was unwarranted.

It is important to note that Abraham’s prayer did not prevent death. No amount of prayer can save someone who knows the truth and chooses to do wrong. Abimelek saved himself from death when he repented and returned Sarah to her husband. Abraham’s prayer only removed the barrenness produced by a sin committed in ignorance.[2]

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

[2] Genesis 20:17

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

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