Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Year 7, Day 18: Genesis 19

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Genesis 19 is primarily about faith versus unfaith.  No, I’m not talking about the judgment of Sodom.  Clearly, that is God judging sinful people who have absolutely no intention of repenting or changing.  They are judged horrifically, yet righteously.  They are wiped from the face of the earth with fire from heaven.

When I talk about faith versus unfaith, I’m talking about Abraham, Lot, and Lot’s wife.  Let’s take a look at Lot’s wife first.  In fleeing the city, she turns around and looks upon Sodom.  She turns into a pillar of salt.  She has trouble leaving the world behind.  She is likely putting on display that she really would rather have not left Sodom behind.  It’s too hard for her to let go of the worldliness around her, so she is judged into becoming a pillar of salt.

To confirm this, let’s look at Lot.  Do you see how Lot behaves?  Yes, Lot tries to spare the Lord’s messengers.  He knows the behavior of the city, thus he intercedes and invites them into his house.  But look at what happens.  Lot offers up his virgin daughters instead!  When the angels urge him to leave, Lot drags his heels!  Quite literally, the Bible is clear that even in the face of impending destruction, Lot and his family have to be dragged out of the city by the messengers of the Lord.  When they do get away, God tells Lot to go into the hills.  But this is too much for Lot.  He doesn’t want to live apart from the trappings of the world.  He argues to be allowed to go to Zoar.  This is the makings of a man who is struggling to have faith in God and leave the trappings of the world behind.

To confirm this even more, do you notice the short little story about Abraham in this passage?  Abraham has no trouble at all when he comes and looks at the destruction that God is doing.  Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt when she looks, yet Abraham looks upon the destruction and nothing happens at all.  This truly does give us the absolute confirmation of the difference between a person of faith and a person of struggling faith.  People with great faith can look upon sin and destruction and not waver.  People of faith have the righteous perspective necessary to live in the world yet be fully in relationship with God.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Year 7, Day 17: Genesis 18

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In Genesis 18 we have two interesting interactions with the Lord.  Both Abraham and Sarah come face to face with God’s messengers and have dialogue.  However, the dialogues go two completely separate routes.

Sarah is eavesdropping by the door when she hears that she will bear a child within the next year.  Sarah laughs!  Truthfully, I think I would laugh, too.  The thought of an elderly woman giving birth to a child is next to impossible.  I would be prone to laugh.  Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t laugh because I think it impossible for God.  Nothing is impossible for God.  I would laugh because of the impossibility for human beings.

However, where the interaction goes wrong isn’t Sarah’s laugh.  Where the interaction goes wrong is when Sarah lies about what she said.  God confronts her about her laugh and Sarah denies laughing.  Granted, she was afraid of getting punished for laughing at God.  By lying, however, she is only increasing her chance for punishment!  Human beings often compound wrongdoing in an attempt to escape punishment, only bringing greater punishment upon them.

In the other example, we see Abraham discussing the righteousness of people with God.  God sets a bar of saving Sodom if there are 50 righteous people.  Abraham begins to barter with God.  Notice that Abraham doesn’t bring God’s character into question.  He doesn’t question whether God is acting righteously at all.  Abraham is simply trying to find God’s limit of righteousness.  In doing so, notice that Abraham actually barters God the whole way down from 50 righteous people to 10 righteous people.  God allows Himself to be moved by Abraham because Abraham is respecting God’s righteousness.

We can learn a good bit about ourselves and God in looking at these passages.  We do enjoy conversation, even discussion.  We enjoy finding the limits set by other people.  We enjoy the probing that comes with socialization.  But we are also prone to lying when the greater community confronts us about our failings.  That is just who we are.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Year 7, Day 16: Genesis 17

Theological Commentary: Click Here

No sooner do we leave the story of Hagar, hearing God’s call for her to obey Him and return to Sarah, that God comes to Abraham and reminds him of the covenant.  In fact, it is in this chapter that God changes Abram’s name (Exalted Father) to Abraham (Father of many nations).  Pay very close attention to what it is that God says.

God reminds Abraham that his offspring will be numerous.  God reminds him that his people will receive the land of Canaan as their inheritance. God reminds him that it is Sarah who will bear him a son.  God also reminds him that He can take care of Ishmael, too.

However, make sure that you keep reading.  Look at what God continues to say.  “You will keep my covenant.”  Abraham’s part of the deal is obedience.  Abraham’s obedience begins with submission to God.

Do you hear the continuation of the pattern that we started to hear in the example of Hagar yesterday?  Hagar was told to obey.  Then, she was told to submit.  She was told to submit in spite of any hardship that she might face.

This is the pattern.  God doesn’t ask for us to do grand things.  He doesn’t ask us to rule the world.  He doesn’t ask us to dominate over others.  God asks us to submit.  He asks us that we keep our covenant with Him by submitting to Him.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Year 7, Day 15: Genesis 16

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Have you ever heard about the prosperity gospel?  It goes something this this.  God loves you.  God wants to bless you.  If God loves you and wants to bless you, then if you just do things the right way you’ll be rich, happy, and have an easy life.

The prosperity Gospel leads us to a place where we believe that we can evaluate our success at being obedient to God based on how things go for us.  It leads us to believe that the wealthy are closer to God, that those with easy lives are closer to God, and those who have few struggles are closer to God.

By the way, the prosperity gospel is utter hogwash.  Maybe you heard of a guy named Daniel, who was called to go into both a fiery furnace and a lion’s den because of his faith.  Or perhaps you’ve heard of a prophet Jeremiah who was hated by the people of his time and spent much of his time living in the prison of a besieged city!  Or perhaps you have heard of a man named John the Baptizer who was beheaded on account of his calling to speak the truth.  Or maybe you’ve heard of a guy named Jesus, who was crucified because it was God’s plan.  I could keep going.  Our prosperity and ease of life is a horrible measure of God’s love for us.

As another example, look at this woman named Hagar.  Her mistress asks her to bear a child with her husband.  She complies.  Granted, once she is pregnant she treats her mistress with contempt, which she shouldn’t have done.  That leads her mistress, Sarah, to mistreat her in return.  Hagar runs away, and Go finds her in the wilderness sulking.

But do you hear what God’s messenger says to her?  God doesn’t say, “Oh, I love you.  Let’s make your life easy.”  No, God says, “Go back to Sarah and submit to her.”

God doesn’t call us to the easy life.  God calls us to live in truth and submit to Him.  He calls us to submit to the authorities around us.  That’s why the true gospel is different than the prosperity gospel.  We can’t evaluate how close we are to God by how full our life is with pleasure.  We can evaluate our closeness to God by the level of obedience in our life.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Year 7, Day 14: Genesis 15

Theological Commentary: Click Here

I think it is interesting to look at a person’s priorities in life.  We all have them, there’s no use denying it.  We all have things that make us tick.  We all have things for which we strive.  What’s neat about humanity is that these things are all different for each person.

Let’s look at Abraham.  God comes to him and says, “I am going to cause you to prosper.”  Do you notice Abraham’s response?  He immediately asks God what good it will do if he doesn’t have an heir.

Naturally, we need to understand the ancient mindset.  First of all, wealth wasn’t evaluated using bank accounts or even coins.  Wealth was evaluated by the size of your herd, the land you controlled, and the number of servants and slaves for whom you could provide.  Wealth was also determined by how many children for whom you could provide.

I firmly believe that when Abraham asks God about an heir, it isn’t an emotional plea for children.  I don’t honestly think that he is feeling sad because he is not a father.  I think that Abraham is evaluating God’s promise to him and realizing that when it comes to children, everyone will consider him poor because his lack of children demonstrates a possibility that he can’t provide for them.

For the record, I also wonder if this isn’t why God gives Abraham only one child.  God needs to give Abraham an heir, of course.  But could He also be keeping him humble by only giving him one as a check on his prioritization?

In the end, do notice that Abraham believes God’s promise.  God exposes Abraham’s character, potentially even a flaw.  God and Abraham even have a legitimate dialogue about God’s promise.  God accepts Abraham's critique, even!  But Abraham still believes.  Abraham trusts.  This is the important part of the story.  God comes to Abraham and Abraham listens and believes.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Year 7, Day 13: Genesis 14

Theological Commentary: Click Here

You really know who your friends are when your life isn’t going well.  We are all familiar with the people who want to be our friends when we have something to offer.  If you’ve ever won something enviable, you know this feeling.  But that isn’t a true display of friendship.  Genuine friendship are people who are with you regardless of your situation.  They are there in the good times.  They remain there in the bad times.

For example, take a look at Lot.  He gets caught up in a war between the people living in and around Canaan.  He is defeated and taken captive.  His stuff is taken as plunder.  He’s a foreigner living in a foreign land.  He doesn’t have a family clan to defend him.  But he does have Abraham.  Abraham is a true friend.  Abraham comes to his defense, rescuing him from the hands of those who captured him.

However, it is often true that a friend of a friend is also a friend.  Notice that Abraham isn’t alone in coming to Lot’s aid.  Some of Abraham’s allies go with him to rescue Lot.  Lot is the beneficiary of Abraham’s friendships, too.

It is important to have friends.  We all like to have people to celebrate with us when things are good.  But we all also need people to be there for us when we need rescued.  We need people to remind us about joy and peace when life conspires against.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Year 7, Day 12: Genesis 13

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Trust and generosity go together. They are accompanied rather well by concern for others.  These are the natural traits of those who walk with God.

Take a look at Abraham (Abram) in this passage.  He and Lot leave Egypt, knowing that the drought in Canaan is over.  While being in Egypt, their wealth prospered.  In other words, their flocks grew in size.  By the time that they get back to Canaan, they realize that their wealth is causing strife.  Their shepherds are starting to quibble among themselves as they try to provide water, food, and security for the flocks.

Look at Abraham’s response.  Abraham turns to Lot and says, “You pick.  Whichever you pick, I’ll take the other.”

This is a cool response for two reasons.  First of all, it shows Abraham’s perspective.  Abraham knows that God can prosper him wherever.  Abraham’s faith in God allows him the freedom to be generous with others.  Abraham’s trust that God will keep His word allows him to be gracious to Lot.  Our ability to be gracious and merciful starts with God.

Second, do you realize what Abraham could have said?  He could have said, “I’m older and wiser.  I have more than you.  You’re an orphan.  I’ll pick, and you get the privilege of leftovers.”  He had all the rights to do that, but he didn’t.  He set aside his privilege and allowed Lot the ability to choose.  He thought of Lot before his own rights.