What is God Doing? – Genesis 20-23

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 20-23

Abraham is given a severe test. God commands Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Years before, he and Sarai took matters into their own hands. Instead of waiting on God to provide, the barren Sarai suggested Abraham take Hagar as his second wife and Ishmael was born (Genesis 16). Having failed the first test, now, the couple is tested again. God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the very child he waited so long to come.

None of us are called to the severe test Abraham faced. Yet, God does send tests in our lives that often confuse us. Elisabeth Elliot, the prominent Christian writer, was visiting some friends in Northern Wales who owned a sheep farm. It was here that she reflected on the day she saw the shepherd pick up the sheep and take it to a vat of antiseptic, where the sheep would be submerged in order to protect it from all sorts of parasites. The shepherd put the sheep into the vat, only to have the sheep fight him, resisting with all its might. The shepherd pushed down the sheep’s head, but the sheep kept coming up, only to have the shepherd push it down again.

Elliot paints the scene for us:

One by one John seized the animals. They would struggle to climb out the side and Mack the sheep dog would snarl and snap at their faces to force them back under. When they tried to climb up the ramp in a panicky way at the far end, John the farmer would catch them, spin them around, force them under again, holding them ears, eyes and nose submerged for a few seconds.

And as their lord and master was pushing their head under, drowning them at least as far as they could tell, their panicky little eyes would look up over the edge of the vat, and it was easy to see what they were thinking. What is god doing?

Reflecting on that experience, Elliot continued:

I’ve had some experiences in my life which have made me feel very sympathetic to those poor sheep. There are times I couldn’t figure out any reason for the treatment I was getting from my great shepherd whom I trusted. And like these sheep I didn’t have a hint of an explanation.

They Shall Become One Flesh – Genesis 16-19

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 16-19

Abram and Sarai arrive at a radically stupid idea. When Sarai doesn’t become pregnant, the two felt they had to “assist” God with his promise that they would be parents of a big family. So, Sarai tells Abram to lay with her servant, Hagar. In short order, Hagar gives birth to Ishmael and the world has not been the same. Nor were Abram’s personal and family life the same.

God’s instructions on marriage were clear: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Within six generations (shortly after Adam’s death), Lamech took two wives (Genesis 4:19).

In ancient times, a custom came about where a man who desired a regular sex partner outside of marriage, could take a low-status woman as a concubine. He could enjoy her company as long as it pleased him, and he could dismiss her at any time. The man made no promises and signed no contract; consequently, the concubine had few legal protections. Any children that she bore would have an inferior legal status.

The Early Church (shortly after the New Testament was completed) fought long and hard against this practice. The church insisted that such a sexual relationship, without the permanent and total commitment expressed in marriage vows, was immoral and unjust. Over the course of a thousand years, this practice retreated into the shadows of social disapproval. The book of Genesis radically critiques the institution of polygamy, even though it was the accepted cultural practice of the time, by vividly depicting the misery and havoc it plays in family relationships, and the pain it caused, especially for women.

Today, marriage laws in the United States are in flux again. History tells us that women will be the losers, even when such changes are thought to be progressive.

Friday, January 15 – Catch Up Day

Saturday, January 16 – Catch Up Day

One Man is Chosen – Genesis 12-15

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 12-15

Abraham life (Genesis 11:27 – 25:11) is important. Today, Abraham is honored as the father of three “religions of the Book” – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Today, you can drive by synagogues, mosques, and churches – all of which consider themselves children of Abraham. Jews, Muslims, and Christians have named their children “Abraham” for 4,000 years in honor of Abraham’s place in all three religions. You will not be able to understand the world itself if you don’t understand this man’s story.

Abraham was one of three brothers who hailed from the southern part of present day Iraq. His life was multifaceted as he often lied by telling people his wife was really his sister in order to save his life. Not only was he wealthy, but he would mount a small army to defeat five kings to save his nephew’s family (Genesis 13). God changed his name from Abram, which meant, “father of many,” to Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude.” He abandoned his son, Ishmael, and Hagar, causing the two to flee into the desert (Genesis 21:1-21). His wife, Sarah, gave birth at 90 years of age and God later asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Thankfully, God later provided an animal for sacrifice in Isaac’s place. Abraham’s stellar life was capped off by being the first Jewish man to own land in the Promised Land. This one man is chosen out of all the families of the earth, and this one man receives an avalanche of blessing cascading one after another on him.

There are two features you should give close attention:

First, Abraham’s life is intentionally placed squarely in the center of Genesis. The book of Genesis is broken up into eleven sections. Each section is bracketed by telling the story of one generation. There are five stories of five generations in front of Abraham, and there are five stories of five generations behind Abraham. Again, Abraham’s story is placed intentionally in the center of Genesis. God wants you to focus on His choice of this one man and this one family.

Second, God tightens the focus on Abraham’s life. In the chapters before Genesis 12, God seems to be painting with the world as His canvas. Yet, in Genesis 12, we leave the broader perspective of the world as God focuses His grace on one man only – Abraham. God’s actions to fix the problems of the world are concentrated through Abraham and his family.