Monday, January 10, 2011

January 8 - Abraham's Death, His Descendants, Isaac's Twins

 Jan. 8 - Genesis 25:1-4, I Chron 1:32-33, Genesis 25:5-6, 12-18, I Chron 1:28-31, 34, Genesis 25:19-26, 7-11  

 I have discovered in my research, that there are differing points of view among Christians regarding the practice of polygamy and concubines in the Bible. Since it has already come up in the text a couple of times, and will  continue to surface, I felt I personally needed to take some time to revisit the references and history before moving on. 

Some believe that God allowed men to have concubines and/or more than one wife, because there is no evidence of a single reproach of the practice in the Bible. David is given as an example, as he is only punished after committing adultery with Bathsheba, another man's wife, but never for having concubines. Solomon had 300 concubines and 700 wives and was considered the "wisest man that ever lived". They argue that just as incest was allowed in the beginning in order to populate the earth, concubines and multiple wives fall into this category. Although incest is later banned, Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is used to defend their position regarding multiple wives and concubines, stating that the Old Covenant made provision for it, and that we shouldn't question God's decisions or choices.

In regard to the Christian approach, they go on to state that plural wives/and or mistresses, is not appropriate behavior for a Christ follower, as the New Testament speaks of, and warns against, all kinds of sexual immorality.  And that in Matthew 19:5,  even Jesus makes a plea for monogamy.  At least on these, I can agree.

I believe that when God created, He only created one man and one woman who would be in charge of "multiplying." To believe anything other than God must have allowed incest for a time, and then banned it, would be inconsistent with that viewpoint. So I am okay with that. When we read a narrative, one has to remember that it is not intended to teach a lesson on morality, or tell us what to do, or not to do. It is the telling of a story of what God did in history. The story doesn't necessarily directly teach, as much as it illustrates what is taught elsewhere in Scripture. The fact that multiple wives were accepted in the culture of the time, I don't believe means that God sanctioned it, just because the text doesn't say, "and such and such is wrong." 

 As stated in Fausset's Bible Dictionary, I understand that the insatiable desire for offspring was somewhat associated with the hope of the promised Messiah. And yes, concubinage was a natural part of a polygamous social system. But in the end, Solomon's lust destroyed him, David had multiple family problems and Abraham's relationship with Hagar set off a chain of effects that would trouble him for years. I haven't found one incident in the Bible that turned out well for the participants of these practices. Any provision made in the law, I think were meant as a "witness, against the hardness of man's heart," not the approval of God.  On the flip side, Abraham's son, Isaac, and his wife Rebekah are in the same predicament as Abraham and Sarah were, except their response, is not to use a concubine. Barren for 20 years, they don't take matters into their own hands, rather, Isaac pleads with the Lord on his wife's behalf, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins, Jacob and Esau, (more about them tomorrow.)

Today's reading includes a list of Abraham's, Ishmael's and  Isaac's descendants, and ends with the death of Abraham, at the ripe old age of 175, "having lived a long and satisfying life." He is buried with his wife, Sarah, on the only piece of property he owned. He bequeathed all the land to Isaac, the son of promise, even though he didn't possess any of it at the time of his death. Abraham's faith had some considerable bumps along the way, but it was especially evident when he packed up everything he owned, and left Ur of the Chaldees, (in modern day Iraq), one of the most advanced, impressive, sophisticated places of his time. He was obedient to leave a place he would never see again, to live in a place he had never seen at all. And then, once again, when he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, what he treasured most, in obedience to God, who he trusted would provide. 

"Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith." Genesis 15:6 Taking God at His Word, he believed in God's covenant promise in Genesis 12:1-3. A covenant promise is not like a modern day contract between two people. God's covenant is eternal and cannot be broken. It was not dependent on Abraham doing all the right things. It was dependent upon the unchanging character of God, and is at the very heart of the Bible. The phrase, "I will be their God, and they will be my people" is a theme that goes all through Scripture right through to Revelation.  It tells us that God wants to stick with us. He longs for a relationship, and He proved it by sacrificing His only Son, Jesus. Not a religion of "do this and don't do that," but an honest relationship of father and child. In spite of our failures and weaknesses, He is a forgiving, merciful Sovereign, Who is good all the time, and is persistently wooing us to draw near to Him...which is the only safe place to be.

Be Blessed...And Stay Tuned!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snow Day

It's Sunday, and I am taking a break from blogging about The Bible today. We had an enchanting snow storm on Friday which distracted me from the rhythm of writing. In other words, I could use the break. The snow, however, has not stopped me from digging into the Word, keeping on track with the daily reading, thinking about its content and praying about its meaning for my life. That is why we read the Bible anyway, isn't it?

The time away from my desk has given me the opportunity to get outside and try to capture some of God's beauty through the lens of my camera.  

I hope you get to enjoy a snow day in the near future. They are a great way to quiet ones heart and mind, even if it means spending the time with a shovel. I hope to get back on track tomorrow. 
Be Blessed...and Stay Tuned!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 7 - Abraham Tested, Sarah Dies, Isaac Marries Rebekah

January 7  Genesis 21:8-34 - 23:1-20, Genesis 11:32, Genesis 24:1-67

Yesterday, we read one of the ugliest chapters in the Bible. Today, this narrative has to be one of the most heart-wrenching. Abraham is tested by God in an unfathomable way, and his beloved wife Sarah dies.

Isaac, is now weaned. This would put him somewhere between 2 and 3 yrs old, and Ishmael in his late teens. Sarah, fed up and threatened by Ishmael's mocking of her "son of promise", insists that Abraham expel him and Hagar, his mother. Very distressed at the thought of them wandering in the wilderness, God confirms that Abraham should listen to Sarah. Isaac's inheritance must be protected, and any threat had to be avoided. God also comforts Abraham with the promise that his son Ishmael, will also be father to a nation of descendants. True to His promise, near their hour of death in the desert, God provides water for Hagar to save her and her son, and Ishmael goes on to become a man of distinction, eventually marrying an Egyptian woman.

Paul, in Galatians 4:21-31, explains that the events that took place with Isaac and Ishmael, are an allegory symbolizing God's Old Covenant of law with Israel, and His New Covenant of grace with His church. This fits into Paul's argument in Galatians 3-4, that when Christ, the seed came, the old, was done away.

Abraham, living in foreign Philistine country, is considered a resident alien. He believes God's promise, that this land will belong to his descendants, so he proceeds to make a treaty with Abimelech, the residing king. He gives Abimelech some sheep, goats and cattle, along with seven female lambs.

This treaty secured Abraham's legal right to live peacefully in the land. The completion of different phases of God's promise are slowly taking place. God is blessing the patriarch, and some pagans in the land take notice. He is now provided with a constant supply of well water, enabling Abraham to stay and thrive in the land. He then plants a tree in Beersheba, "the well of the oath."  To sit under one's tree was a sign of peace and security. Zechariah 3:10.

The Scripture says, "Some time later, God tested Abraham's faith." The test was very real. After the long awaited fulfillment of God's promise, after raising their precious baby boy to be the young man that he has become, after the love, and the laughter and the joy of having this incredible gift in their lives, God asks Abraham to give him back. Isaac is to become a burnt offering to the Lord. The world, the flesh and the devil can tempt us in order to bring out the worst in us. Only God can test us to prove our faith, and the Bible carefully distinguishes between the two. To be a genuine test, it must defy logic and be something that Abraham would naturally want to resist. But resist, he did not. Abraham had matured both in age and in his trust in God. He obeyed immediately, and set out by placing the wood for the sacrifice on his young son's shoulders to carry on the 50 mile, three day journey to Mount Moriah. (Jewish tradition places the mount in Jerusalem, although the exact location is not known.) 

This unreasonable, illogical, horrific request did not deter Abraham. Seeing the place in the distance, he leaves the two servants behind, assuring them that they will "worship there, and then we will come right back."Answering Isaac's curious question about "where is the sheep for the offering?" Abraham answered, "God will provide..." 

All Abraham knew was that God had planned a future around Isaac. Although, he could not reconcile the request with the promise, he would nevertheless obey. So dramatic was God's intervention, (as Abraham took the knife to slay his beloved son), the Lord showed that He never intended for Abraham to go through with it. Child sacrifice was performed by some of the pagan nations to appease their gods, but Israel was not to practice it. God now knew that Abraham would hold nothing back, he would sacrifice anything, even his son. 

One can't help but consider this passage on two levels. The first, a father who dearly loves his son, being asked to sacrifice him in obedience to God. The second, is a graphic picture of our heavenly Father's sacrifice of His only Son who died on the cross in our place, so we can experience forgiveness of our sins. For divine justice to be satisfied, an animal sacrifice would not suffice. Humanity sinned, the price or wage of that sin is death, and the God-Man must pay it. Romans 6:23. As Isaac willingly carried the wood on his shoulders, Jesus carried His cross. After the three day journey, like the three days in the ground, Isaac's life was resurrected, as was Jesus'. In recognizing the intense pain and heartbreak of Abraham, God betrays His own heartache over sacrificing His own Son. Our only response must be one of complete surrender and gratitude.

Approximately 25 years after this crisis of faith, Sarah dies. In the role call of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, Sarah is only one of two women who are immortalized. Abraham, in a difficult negotiation with a Hittite inhabitant of Canaan, purchases his first piece of property in the Promised Land...a burial place. As a testimony to future generations, it was important for Sarah to be buried there. 

As Abraham deeply grieves over the loss of his wife, he turns his attention to finding a wife for Isaac. He is very old, and concerned that his son might marry a Canaanite woman. He sends his oldest servant, Eliazer, to bring back a wife from his homeland, trusting that God is still providentially planning for the promise of land and descendants. Obediently, the servant travels to Abraham's homeland, and humbly prays to God. "This is my request. I will ask one of them, "Please give me a drink from your jug.' If she says, "Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camel, too!' ---let her be the one you have selected as Isaac's wife."

There is great success! Rebekah comes out and gives him water, and offers to tend to the camels as well. She then  confirms that she is the daughter of Bethual (Abraham's nephew). First and foremost, Eliazer gives praise and worship to the Lord! "The Lord has shown unfailing love and faithfulness to my master, for He has led me straight to my master's relatives." After gift giving, discussion and a brief hesitation by the family, Rebekah, willingly, is brought home to Isaac. "Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother's tent, and she became his wife." 

God sovereignly worked through all the circumstances to secure His plan to bless mankind. Yet, although we marvel at God's providence, the human responsibility was quite evident. The servant was faithful, loyal, trusted God implicitly, prayerful, and finally, he was expedient in worship, even before the assignment was a done deal.

There is no greater call than to love the Lord with "all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." This supreme demand supersedes loyalty to anyone or anything else. Abraham proved his loyalty on Mount Moriah by his willingness to give to God that which was most precious to Him. When God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his response was Hineni (hee nay nee). It is the same word Moses used when God spoke to him from the burning bush, and Isaiah used it when called to be a prophet. Translated, "Here I am" or "I am ready", barely touch on the depth of the intentioned Hebrew word. It carries with it a sense of being attentive and fully present, with no distractions to interfere with following the command. God doesn't test us with the purpose of making us fail, rather for the purpose of seeing us succeed. When we begin to understand this, and trust that whatever He calls us to, is meant to bring Him glory and us spiritual satisfaction, than responding with "Hineni" will roll off the tongue more effortlessly. It wasn't Isaac's life that God wanted, he wanted Abraham's heart, and he wants...and deserves, our hearts as well.

Be Blessed...and Stay Tuned!

Friday, January 7, 2011

January 6 - Sodom and Gomorrah is Destroyed, Isaac is Born

Jan. 6 - Genesis 18:1-21:7

Todays reading begins with a seemingly impossible promise and ends with a fantastic fulfillment. Sandwiched in between, is one of the ugliest chapters in the Bible.

God, on an exceptional occasion, appears to Abraham who has been chosen as a channel of blessing. He is called to be a vehicle, where Israel and all the nations that God loves, will be directed to walk in the way of Yahweh. God informs him that in twelve months he and his wife Sarah will have a son. I can hardly blame post menopausal Sarah for laughing to herself, after overhearing the promise. Then the Lord says to Abraham, "...Is anything too hard for the Lord?" God then proceeds to let him in on His plan to check out first hand the many complaints about the grievous sins (unnamed) from Sodom and Gomorrah, where his nephew Lot lives with his family.
(Here is another picture of Israel in the Dead Sea vicinity from my trip)

Grieved at the prospect of destruction, Abraham begins to intercede in prayer for the welfare of others. He suggests to God that there would perhaps be at least 50 righteous people, in which case God would not destroy the good with the wicked. In Abraham's mind, knowing God as he did, for God to do anything but be the Just Judge of all the earth would be inconsistent with His character. God does not act capriciously. In going down to see for Himself, He proves to Abraham that He is not only loving, but He is also just. In this first instance of intercessory prayer, I think Abraham's humility and courageousness is something to take note of. From 50 to 45 to 40 to 30 to 20 to 10, Abraham remained resolved in his understanding of God's justice.

Later that evening, while Lot (a leader in the community) was sitting at the city gate, two angels came to him. To his credit, Lot offers them hospitality in his home, and knowing how unsafe it can be, he insists that they spend the night with him. Then the city, that Abraham had hoped had other righteous people, reveals its true character. All  the males of Sodom surrounded Lot's house. Their intention for homosexual rape is clear. And to his discredit, Lot proposes a heinous solution to a wicked problem. He offers his two virgin daughters to the lust depraved crowd.

Lot and his family are rescued before the city is destroyed, but Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back after being instructed not to. God could have changed her instantly, or she could have lingered too long, as the ash and falling sulfur engulfed the area. Visiting the Dead Sea region, one can easily imagine being encapsulated in salt. (This is not one of my pictures)

The apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 2:7-8 that Lot was a righteous man. Whatever his failings were, he was a true worshipper of Yahweh. Perhaps, not because of him, but in spite of him, God answered Abraham's prayer for justice. Lot was distressed by the ungodliness that surrounded him, but sadly, his witness and example did nothing to influence those in his community. God could not find 10 righteous people. The culture at the time was such, that to not have any heirs meant scorn and disgrace, and the environment Lot's family resided in was saturated with all kinds of wickedness and sexual immorality. No doubt, some of the undesirable characteristics of the culture rubbed off on them. This led his daughters to do the unthinkable. They got their father drunk to have sex with him, in hopes of conceiving and preserving the family line. From the descendants of Lot's two daughters came the Moabites and the Ammonites, who prove to be troublesome to the Israelites for generations to come.

In another embarrassing episode, where an old fear momentarily squelches his faith, Abraham lies about Sarah being his wife. The wonderful message, is that God remained faithful to him! He preserved the sanctity of his marriage and Isaac was born. "The Lord kept His word and did for Sarah exactly as he has promised." Abraham is 100 years old.

Faith, in the Bible, is not described as believing in something that is impossible, just because it is too difficult to imagine. Faith is believing in what God has said, and sometimes what He says seems impossible. Taking God at His Word can often times be a difficult process for some. We live in an imperfect, flawed world, but God promises to be with us in the good times and in the tears. And it is often in the tears and in the fears, that He surprises us, as Sarah was, with joy!

Be Blessed...and Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January 5 - God's Covenant with Abraham

Jan. 5  Genesis 15:1-17:27
Before I get into the text, I have to get this song out of my head. I taught it in Sunday School, and my girls performed it many times growing up. I thought the desert motif went well with our Biblical study. It gave me a good chuckle. It's also a good reminder to pray for peace in the Middle East. The song goes, "Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one one of them and so are you, so lets all praise the Lord."

One of the things I love most about the Bible is that it's real. The authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, don't gloss over the shortcomings of the individuals they write about. They are exposed for who they are...

Here is a re-cap...
Abram obeyed God and departed to Canaan with Sarai and Lot. A famine forces them to go to Egypt, where he and Sarai deceive Pharoah into thinking she was Abram's sister instead of his wife. (Sarai is actually Abraham's half sister.) Back north to the Promised Land, Abram generously gives Lot first pick of the land. Lot chooses the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley with the best water supply, near a place called Sodom, where the "people of this area where extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord." War breaks out in the valley of the Dead Sea, Lot is captured, Abraham strategically rescues him, gives one tenth of all the goods recovered to Melchizadek, a priest of God Most High, and wisely refuses the King of Sodom's offer to take it all. Here is a picture of the Dead Sea area from my trip to Israel.

Questioning and impatient with how God will fulfill His promise, Sarai gives her maid, Hagar to Abram to be a surrogate mother, (a common practice in the ancient Near East.) Hagar, when pregnant, flaunts it. Sarai treats her poorly enough where she runs away. Ishmael is born, and the Scripture says, "he will live in open hostility against all his relatives." The consequences of this bad decision are still being felt today by the hostility of the descendants of Ishmael, the Arabs and those of Isaac, the Jews. 

There you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly of humanity. Obedience, wisdom and faithfulness are contrasted with fear, greed, convenience and selfishness. It's all in there. And we are all capable. Yet, in the midst of it all is a Covenant Making God, with a plan to bless all of mankind through one man, Abraham. At ninety nine years old, The Lord appears to him and says, "I am El-Shaddai-God Almighty...and I will make you the father of many nations." 

God promises the couple a son of their own, which they are to name Isaac. Through Isaac would come the Messiah.  "From the very beginning, God had in view that Jesus Christ would be the descendant of Abraham and that everyone who trusts in Christ would become an heir of Abraham's promise. So it says in Galations 3:29,"If you are Christ's then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." Or as Romans 4:16-17 says, "The promise is according to grace in order to be guaranteed to all Abraham's descendants, not only to [the Jews] but also to [Gentiles] who share the faith of Abraham, who is father of us all, as it is written, 'I have made you the father of many nations.'" Read or listen to more of God's Covenant with Abraham by John Piper.

In light of these promises, Abram, now named Abraham, is to live a life of obedience and faith, along with the sign of circumcision as proof of his keeping the covenant. He wastes no time, but immediately (the best time to obey) gets the job done. First on himself, then all the male members of his household.

Think about God's love and care for Sarai and Hagar. She was far from perfect, yet God protected her in Egypt, and never gave up on her when she was at her worst. He had a higher calling for her life, that of "mother of nations." He also heard Hagar cry out in the wilderness. "The Angel of the Lord" appeared to her, who scholars regard as an early appearance of Jesus Christ. Uttered in misery, He reminds her that He has heard her cry. She, too, will be the mother of large numbers of offspring. Then there is Abraham, who after a time of "laughing" at the prospect of he and Sarah having their own child, believes God. 

No one likes waiting. We live in a restless, materialistic society that thrives on instant gratification. As I type this, my computer slowed down, and I became momentarily frustrated. But God's timing is always perfect, and His promises are always kept. He is always faithful, even when we fail Him. No amount of worry or fretting will change His Sovereign timetable. What ever it is that you are waiting on, God asks that we believe and trust Him, No Matter What!

Be Blessed...and stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January 4 - Tower of Babel, Abram and Lot

January 4  - Genesis 11:1-26; I Chronicles 1:24-27; Genesis 11:27-31; Genesis 12:14-24

Before I move on to Genesis chapter 11, as much as I dislike reading genealogies, I think it is worth mentioning that chapter 10 is often called the “Table of Nations.”  The emphasis is on the common family of humanity from Adam, through Noah and his sons. Distinct “races” is not a concept recognized in the pages of Scripture. The only race, is the human race, descended from one ancestor. God made and loves each nation. What an affront it is to God, when any of us act superior over another, based on the color of their skin or ethnicity.

Okay, moving on…
After the flood, Noah’s sons had many children. Ham’s son Cush was the ancestor of Nimrod.  “Cush was also the ancestor of Nimrod, who was the first heroic warrior on earth. Since he was the greatest hunter in the world, his name became proverbial. People would say, “This man is like Nimrod, the greatest hunter in the world.”  He built his kingdom in the land of Babylonia, Genesis 10:8-10a

Nimrod’s name means “rebel.” He was the founder of the Babylonian Empire and the organizer that led to the construction of the Tower of Babel. God had commanded the people to replenish and be scattered over the face of the whole earth. Instead, they set out to make a name for themselves.
In response, the God-head held a conference (“Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages”), making it impossible for them to work together. Have you ever tried to explain what you want done to someone who doesn’t know a bit of English? You basically get a shrug and a blank stare. What the people considered their greatest strength, God was swift to destroy. Their biggest fear, to be scattered, came naturally upon them. “The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled…” Proverbs 10:24a

Now is a good time to introduce the doctrine of The Trinity. The word Trinity is never mentioned in the Bible,. However, to date, this is the third time in our readings where it is implied.
“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. Genesis 1:26a
Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:2a

Then comes Abram. Descended from the family of Shem, one of Noah’s sons, he is married to Sarai, who is unable to bear children. Abram lives in the land of Ur of the Caldeans, with his father Terah, and his nephew Lot. Heading for Canaan, they settle in Haran. It is here in Haran, that the Lord called Abram. In Genesis 12:1-3, God forms the Abrahamic Covenant. Here is a map of Abraham's Journey.

There is so much to write about Abraham, but this blog has gotten a bit long today, so I’ll incorporate it into tomorrows. Meanwhile, I think we can all be thinking about what it means to step out of our comfort zones like Abraham was called to.

Be Blessed…and stay tuned

January 3 - The Flood and God's Covenant

January 3 -  Genesis 7-10:5; 1 Chronicles 1:5-7; Genesis 10:6-20; 1 Chronicles 1:8-16; Genesis 10:21-30; 1 Chronicles 1:17-23; Genesis 10:31-32

As a book of beginnings, Genesis sets the stage for the entire Bible. As we read these incredible accounts of history, the nature of God is revealed. We are only a few days in, and we have seen God as the Sovereign Creator, Compassionate Sustainer, Provider, and hardest for us to understand, He is the Just Judge. We have seen the value and dignity given to human beings as they were created in His image, and in The Fall, we have witnessed the tragic consequences of sin – the separation from God.

In the story of Noah, it is frightening to see how all of humanity so quickly went down the proverbial toilet. They forgot about God. Incredibly, only one man and his family still worshipped Him. So for 120 years, Noah remains committed to the purposes of God, and graphically illustrates his commitment by building a boat, (approximately the size of a football field), in his backyard. 120 years of second chances for the people in Noah’s generation, and yet, when the floods came, the only people who boarded the boat were Noah and his family.

Throughout the Bible, in countless examples, we see God showing His love and patience towards men and woman in order to save them. Noah wasn’t perfect, as we learn from his drunkenness. Noah was faithful and obedient, and God is faithful to those who obey him. After nearly a year of floating, the ark settles on Mt. Ararat where Noah was quick to offer an approved sacrifice, and God is pleased with the aroma.

I think I would have been a little freaked out to be the only ones left on earth at that time. God understood, and in His compassion He gives Noah a promise, and a sign in the form of the first rainbow. It is an eternal covenant to never destroy or curse the ground again in this way. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall…all evidence of God’s promise, a promise to pass down to all the generations to come. After judging sin, God made a covenant of peace. Now every time we spot one after the rain, we can be reminded of His faithfulness and grace.

The curse of Canaan has stumped many a scholar. Many ideas have surfaced. Did Ham castrate Noah? Did Ham sleep with his mother, or with Noah? The Bible Knowledge Commentary has this to say. “To the ancients, however, even seeing one’s father naked was a breach of family ethic. The sanctity of the family was destroyed and the strength of the father was made a mockery. Ham apparently stumbled on this accidentally, but went out and exultingly told his two brothers, as if he had triumphed over his father.” This seemingly trivial incident turns into a major event, and Noah prophesies against the descendents of Canaan, Ham’s son. These descendants are the Canaanites, the antagonists of God’s people, Israel. You'll be hearing a lot about them in the future.

We can learn a lot from Noah’s life. I think the biggest thing for me is that obedience is a long-term commitment. Let’s encourage one another to keep going and to be found faithful!

Be Blessed...and stay tuned!

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 2 - Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah

Genesis 4:1-5:32; 1Chronicles1:1-4; Genesis 6:1-22

Banished from the perfect life in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are now clothed in animal skins fashioned by the Creator Himself. I think it is safe to assume that when these animals were offered up to make coverings, God was instructing the first family of the necessity for blood sacrifice as a form of redemptive worship. The couple then carries on with the command to be fruitful and multiply. So with God’s help, enter Cain, the firstborn. Next up in the first family, is Abel.

The essential part of sacrifice is handed down to the offspring, but something happens. God finds pleasure only in Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. The conversation gives us clues, that perhaps it is not the gift of the crops Cain offered, but the attitude of his heart that was the problem. “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.”

Cain, in his anger, kills Abel and denies to the Lord what happened to him. Cain’s casual dismissal is met with God’s divine curse.  He is cast out away from his family, decreed that his farming efforts will be futile, and his attempts to find good soil will cause him to become a “restless wanderer on the earth.” This wandering brings him to the land of Nod, where he takes a wife. The most talked about wife in all of history is Cain’s, and the question is,  "who exactly is she"? Adam lived to be 930 years old, and other records indicate that he had many offspring. So the most likely answer to this question is that she is a sister or a niece. If you would like to read more about it, you can check this out...Cain's Wife: It Really Does Matter.

 As Cain starts a family and generations pass, a prosperous city takes form in the land of Nod. His descendants are entrepreneurs, musicians, engineers and craftsman. But the founder is a known murderer and the record also includes the first mention of multiple marriages, along with an incident where unwarranted violence is justified. One can surmise, that education, skill and giftedness are not necessarily a guarantee for godliness.  “It’s not how close we live to a great city, but how close we live to a great God.”

Meanwhile, Eve gives birth to Seth, and after his son Enosh is born,  “people first began to worship the Lord by name.” As we continue on in history and population increases, it becomes apparent that God is not happy with the spiritual condition of his people, There is some discussion among scholars as to just how the corruption and increased moral depravity transpired. What we do know, is that God decreases the mortality rate to 120 years, and His heart breaks over having created them. If it were not that Noah (a descendant of Seth) was found to be righteous, every living thing would have been destroyed. But God, in His mercy, decides to spare Noah, his family, and a boat full of animals. He gives instructions and in obedience, “Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.”

Coming soon to the Heartland,  Planned Noah's Ark Park .

These Biblical records give me pause, especially in this New Year, to ask God to reveal the answers to two questions. First, are my attitudes and motivations pure as I live and breathe and enjoy this gift of life in God’s world?  And secondly, am I using my gifts, talents and resources for the benefit and influence of the culture in positive, God –honoring ways? This is my heart's desire.

Be Blessed…and stay tuned!

January 1 Creation, Eden, Sin

Genesis 1:1 - 3:24

I remember a time in elementary school, where for a time, I learned not to think. It was during a religion or science class in Catholic school when I raised my hand, and asked these questions, “What about evolution? Couldn’t God have created in that way? I must have just watched Inherit The Wind and was feeling a bit feisty.

After being berated and humiliated by my nun for asking such a question (I think she was biased), I began to silently question many things I was being taught. Some were about God Himself, but mostly they were about religious traditions. It wasn’t until I was 26 and began reading the Bible for myself that some of the answers to those questions began to take shape. I emphasize some, because like a woman who doesn’t necessarily like to reveal her age, God chooses to keep some revelations to Himself. And, no, I am not comparing God to a vain woman.

When reading the Bible, I have learned to approach the text with great humility. We would be wise to pray asking God to give us guidance, and to check our biases and traditions at the door… but not our brains. 40 percent of the Old Testament is narrative. That means that it is written in story style. Genesis is the retelling of historical events of the past. While interpreting, one to needs to be careful not to read into the text something that wasn’t intended. I recommend this book. How to Read the Bible for All Its WorthContrary to what I was led to believe by the spiritual leaders of my youth, the Bible is accessible.
Genesis chapter 1 is the account of the creation of the heavens and earth and everything in them. There are three primary interpretations of Creation prevalent in the Christian community today. They are; Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, and Theistic Evolution. You can read about them in more detail here. How Did God Create The Universe?

For the record, I tip the scale towards Old Earth Creationism for one reason that I can’t get past. “God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female he created them.” This is something so unique and precious. It is so wonderful, that I can’t even fathom what it all entails to be created in the image of an all Sovereign God. We are created to reflect His glory! God created by His spoken word, and He has the power and authority to have done so any way He chooses. We can have opinions, intellectual discussions, and scientific discoveries, which are profitable, but in the end, I think we’ll see creation to be evermore spectacular than our finite minds can ever conjure up.

A few years ago, I attended a conference where Dr.Richard Swenson was one of the guest speakers. His presentation on the scientific intricacy’s of the human body and the universe increased my faith in God’s creative majesty. He presented interesting facts, like this one about nuetrinos. Some prefer to continue the raging battle, but I find science and faith to be unlikely allies in seeing the majesty and sovereignty of God. Personally, I think the question of how God created has caused too much division and is distracting from the true intention of the writer of Genesis, which was to proclaim that God IS the Creator “In the beginning, God...” Carl Sagan said, “The cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be.” The biblical text emphatically denies this claim, and declares God as eternal, present before the created universe, and separate from His creation. This reality should stir in us worship and wonder at His majesty and sovereignty.

This next portion of the daily reading, Genesis chapter 3, is the story of the fall of humanity. God placed the man and woman in the most perfect environment, and they became the first dysfunctional family. In a narrative, you will find three parts…characters, plot and plot resolution. In the Biblical story, the main character, or protagonist is God, the antagonist is Satan, and God’s people are the other main characters, or agonists. Simply put, the plot is that God created people as His image bearers and creation stewards. The enemy persuaded them to bear his image instead, and the resolution is the great story of redemption. This story of redemption is God’s unwavering pursuit of mankind, to bring them back into fellowship, to reflect His image once again, and to eventually redeem them, along with all of His creation in the new heaven and earth. It is an astounding, epic, utterly true and crucially important story!

I think it’s time to worship Him!

Be Blessed…and stay tuned!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The One Year Chronological Bible

It was yesterday, January 1, 2011, that I decided to go through the One Year Bible again. I had done this before, but mostly, having participated and taught at Community Bible Study, an in-depth study for 21 years, I spent my time with the Scripture at hand. I have to admit, I did try to tack on the One Year several different times over the years, but always failed to keep up. I have chosen the One Year Chronological Bible to read for three reasons. 1. I bought it two years ago and so it is sitting on my shelf. 2. Although I have studied the Bible for many years, I have a poor memory for historical dates and such, so reading through a general timeline, particularly in the Old Testament, will help me to place prophets and kings once again in their proper places in history. 3. Reading the whole Bible as a single story is unique, in that the reader can see God's plan unfold through the pages of history.

Early this morning, after reading the Scripture for the day, and after getting numerous facebook feedback regarding my commitment, I felt compelled to blog about it. This mornings service at Walnut Hill Community Church, was more confirmation, when our pastor, Clive Calver, encouraged us to deeper disciplines with the Lord, one being the reading of the One Year Bible. Blogging won't be easy, I know, but it is giving me much needed focus to be in God's Word more deeply again, and the practice and vulnerability of putting my thoughts into words. Another paradox exists, because God is in the business of transforming us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He often uses His Word as an instrument of growth, to bend, mold, purify, and if need be, to break us, until we reflect back His beautiful image. The good news is that God is for us and He believes in all we can become when we allow Him to work through us!

As of now, I am still learning how to use this blogger, so I am not quite sure how this is going to work. I might write daily on some occasions, or only a few times a week lumping several readings into one. Most likely, along the way, I will throw in some random recipes, family escapades, garden and chicken chronicles, and personal reflections. They will make a good diversion when I am stumped with the text, or get bored with Leviticus. So pick up your Bible and journey with me through The One Year Chronological Bible. If you don't have one, you can follow along here...  

I would love to hear your thoughts as we travel The Ground To Grow On.
Be Blessed...and Stay tuned!