The Greater Work–Genesis 24 Part 2

When one lists the great tools for life success, the greatest tool is often left off the list.  The gift of prayer is overlooked, even though it is our greatest tool of all. Oswald Chambers, renowned Bible scholar and devotion said it best, “Prayer is not the preparation for the greater work, it is the greater work.”
 
Abraham’s servant traveled across the desert to the land of Abraham’s father.  He stopped in the area he had lived well over a quarter century before–then he prayed. The result was truly amazing–God brought the object of his prayer, right to him.  It was no coincidence, it was God doing what God does–hearing and answering our prayers.  I John 5:14-15–“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him”
 
In our lives, we often act as if we do not want to impose upon God.  Or, we pray like spoiled and entitled children–simply looking out for our selfish interests and not truly seeking God’s plan for our lives.  Abraham, his servant and God’s people throughout history have relied on prayer and faith to lead them in the journey and mission for which they were called.  When they have, God has done amazing and wonderful things for, in and through them. 
 
We can never underestimate, nor set aside our ability to reach out to the very God–that reached across eternity to restore his relationship with us. Prayer is the greater work and the key to a successful and amazing journey.
 
God Bless You
Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.

17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”

18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

In the World–BUT, Not of the World–Genesis 24 Part 1

It is very important to preserve our culture.  Abraham had lived his adult life as he was raised–trusting God and following God closely. He was raised in a home and culture where God was still honored and followed.  While that culture was neither popular or widely practiced, God knew that diluting it by mixing it liberally in the world culture would not end well.  God’s desire was to build a kingdom of priests–a nation that served God and brought his message of restoration to the world. 
 
God also knew that by mixing cultures, the world would dramatically impact Abraham’s family–far more than Abraham’s family would ever affect world.  That is why Abraham sought for and obtained the promise from his servant to find his son, Isaac a wife from the people in his land and of his family.  Abraham had already witnessed time and again the affect of the world–his nephew now was building his lineage through children he had with his own daughters–simply because God wiped out the evil that was Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot liberally mixed his family. 
 
The world’s way always diverges from God’s way.  That is why we are called to be “in the world”–but not “of the world”. That is why we–as families, like Abraham, have to raise those families in the culture–but define ourselves from the culture.  What we do to entertain ourselves, how we treat others and how we prioritize God in our daily lives; will separate us from the world.  In that position, we cannot be afraid of rejection from the world, we should be glad for such rejection–Abraham was! Jesus promised–“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”
 
God Bless You

Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”

“Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring[a] I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

10 Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim[b] and made his way to the town of Nahor. 11 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.

So Long Sister Sarah–Genesis 22 Part 1

 Abraham lost his best partner.  Sarai, later Sarah stood beside Abraham during his days in Haran, then as he wandered through Canaan.  She allowed herself to be taken as Abram’s sister–by a number of Kings. She never held a grudge, nor did her years of bareness cause her to lose faith. She waited until  nearly one hundred to bear her son. She raised him faithfully and allowed God to continue to do the leading.  In that mode, she watched her family grow to be wealthy and powerful, but, never expected anything; she only followed faithfully.
 
It is also the same today.  We are in a wilderness of culture similar to the godless Canaanites. As we follow God closely, we may often feel like wanderers.  We may face points in the journey where we seem like hopeless captives, homeless foreigners or simple nomads. All the while, we journey toward the promised land–Heaven.  As we approach, we look more and more like the one we follow most closely.  Interestingly, our journey leaves a trail of others who also adopt the relationship and legacy of those who want become like our father.
 
Sarah, Abraham and those who came after, had one likeness–their desire to please and honor God.  That desire, the attitude of their heart was the greatest legacy they could leave.  It is also the greatest legacy we can leave.  God never demands perfection, only a desire to seek and follow him.  So as we follow God–we need to adopt the same spirit as Sister Sarah…
 
God Bless You
Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[a] He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give[b] you the field, and I give[c] you the cave that is in it. I give[d] it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels[e] of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

Laying our Treasure on God’s Alter–Genesis 22 Part 2

What is the thing you struggle mostly with turning over to God? Is it family, career, marriage? What we often forget is that when we lay our treasures on God’s alter, he usually not only returns them to our care; but often in greater quantity or better quality.
 
Abraham trusted God–even with the son he waited a century to have.  The great thing was that God never intended to allow the boy to be injured; he simply needed Abraham to see that he trusted Abraham as Abraham had trusted him. He not only spared Isaac–he made him the father of Israel–his chosen people.  Make no mistake, Isaac witnessed the exchange between his dad and God–he was the heart of the discussion.  He saw his father’s faith and his God’s mercy and from it became a godly man.  No one left that day the same way they began it. 
 
We have to continue to trust God–knowing he will prepare, protect and provide for us.  Even when it seems hopeless, we must continue to trust him and allow him to reign in our lives. We have to be willing to lay even our most precious treasures on the alter as a sign of our faith in him–knowing all the while, like Abraham, He who provides such treasures will only bless that which we are willing to leave in his charge.  That is the price and reward of genuine faith in God.
 
God Bless You
 
But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Abraham’s Defining Moment–Genesis 22 Part 1

As a father, there are few stories in the Bible that impact my life more than Abraham’s defining moment.  After a quarter-century of going where God told him, God tested Abraham in a way that would literally seal forever their relationship and change the world. God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Not by simply sending him off to war, but, he was directing Abraham to perform the ritual sacrifice for atonement using Abraham’s spotless lamb–Isaac, as the sacrificial lamb. Abraham was grieved, shocked and hopeful all at the same time.  He knew that God had made a promise–Isaac would be the patriarch for the kingdom of priests–so, how was God going to both keep his word, and allow the sacrifice.
 
The answer was simple–Abraham truly KNEW that God had a plan.  He KNEW that God would spare his son.  He moved forward with all the strength he could muster to carry out God’s test–but, he knew God and knew that God would not break covenant, would not condone the killing of such a precious son, and he knew that God would provide–as he had their entire journey.  No doubt, Abraham was stressed and stretched to the maximum of his capacity. As he bound his son, laid him on the alter and raised the knife–he must have had a second or two of angst. But, as one who passionately and completely trusts the Lord, he raised the knife–all the while fully expecting God to provide.
 
Abraham modeled true faith–“all in” to the end. In our walks, many times we trust God for the majority of our decisions, provision, security and direction–yet, God does not set the trust on a continuum. He calls us to trust him completely; to act consistent with his character. He loves us, wants to have fellowship with us and will never forsake us.  He will, however, allow us to grab the controller and attempt to run ur own lives. When he does, we lose trust in him and rely upon faith in others; or worse, ourselves.  That course is always doomed to failure and utter destruction.  Be confident–God will act consistently with his character–flawless, loving and with our eternal interest in mind.
 
God Bless You

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

Settling in For the Duration–Genesis 21 Part 2

Abraham was finally settled in the land.  It was not turned over to him yet, but, he was finally settled. Life, since Haran, had been turbulent–but now, with Isaac in his arms and God’s continued blessing on his journey, Abraham planted a Tamarisk tree, made a treaty and settled in for the long haul.  The most amazing part of the story of Abraham–was that he remained content–whatever circumstance he found himself in.  Whether in Haran, Egypt, Beersheba or somewhere in between–he continued to trust God and God continued to meet Abraham’s needs and fulfill his covenant with Abraham.

In our lives, we, like Abraham, have to trust God.  We have to play the long game, and understand that the Father’s work continues until we are called home. The difficult reality is that unless we are content in all circumstances, we will not be content in any.  So when like Abraham, we have to settle in for a portion–our focus remains on him and his plan–not on the circumstances we face.  It is the hardest challenge we, as his chosen, face every day.  It requires his divine intervention to release us from the chains of our culture, its stuff and its desires.  Only when we are free from the stuff–can we truly enjoy what he provides.  Help me, Lord to be content in the place where you have me!

God Bless You

 

The Treaty at Beersheba

22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”

24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

31 So that place was called Beersheba,[d] because the two men swore an oath there.

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

That Just Isn’t Fair–Genesis 21 Part 1

We see the world linearly, while God see’s the world from an all knowing, omnipresent way. Because our view is so limited, many things that God does and allows seem both unfair and unreasonable.  What Abraham understood was that God knew the plan–and it was not his job to question it; it was his job to trust God and follow his lead.  Make no mistake, Abraham loved his son Ishmael, but, God always intended to build Abraham’s lineage through Isaac. Trusting that, Abraham honored God’s command and sent Hagar and Ishmael on their way.  I am sure it was not easy, but, as Abraham had trusted God for 25 years–he had to again trust God to bring his plan to fruition.
 
Nothing has changed.  There is so much in the world that seems unfair.  Many of the things result from men’s choices to do evil and reject God.  Some things that happen, however, do not seem–from our linear perspective to make sense or even align with God’s nature in any way.  We, therefore, begin to blame God for life’s trials–rather than seek Him to make sense of them and follow him through the difficult times.  Many things will never have a why attached, but, most will find him walking with us and propping us up–when it seems we cannot continue to go forward.
 
God is both ready and able to meet us where we are and carry us through any and all circumstances–even those that do not seem fair. We, like Abraham, must be willing to trust him and follow him even in the times we do not understand his plan or life’s circumstance.  This is war–and, as his warriors, we must be prepared to take the steps to survive and follow his lead.
 
God Bless You

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac[a] to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”