Genesis 20 – Here We Go Again

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Well, here we are again with Abraham trying to pass off his wife, Sarah, as his sister. It didn’t work out in Genesis 12 so why would he go that route again? Had he still not learned to trust in God for his safety and provision? Maybe he thought it would work this time. They say, “the third times the charm”, but maybe Abraham thought the second time would be. After all, Sarah was ninety years old this time around. It wasn’t strange to think no one would be interested in taking a wife that old.

From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. Genesis 20:1-2

Initially, I was a bit bored and frustrated with this chapter and wondered why we had to rehash this same old tired story and sin again. In fact, instead of the usual few hours to read, ponder and write the blog, this one took three days. Not three solid days, but three days of reading it, being bored, uninterested and putting it off. When something like this happens, it’s good to ask ourselves why we are responding in this way. And then it hit me. . .

Maybe I didn’t like chapter 20 so much because it was frustrating to see Abraham pull out the same sin strategy again and I was reminded of how I have done this same thing. Knowing better, but moving forward with the thought, action or word anyway. It frustrates me when I fall into a pattern of sin. This chapter is convicting because as much as I was judging Abraham and thinking, “he should know better” I know I am no different or better than he was.

Like us, Abraham let fear rule in his life. He forgot all the times God had come through for him. His faith in God wavered and also his faith in mankind and the people he was going to encounter in this new territory.  I remember the lessons I had to learn over and over again because I didn’t handle them correctly by recognizing my sin, asking forgiveness from God and then tucking the lesson away in my heart. Now, I pray during and after the trial, obstacle, failure or storm for God to plant the lessons learned within my heart and mind so I never forget them and don’t have to relearn them. There are so many things I never want to have to revisit or relearn again.

But when I do forget them and I end up back in the same place I was hours, months or years earlier asking for God’s forgiveness once again and for the same thing, I get so frustrated with myself. Grace! I’m so quick to offer it to others but slow to offer it to myself.

Self-reflection can be difficult and takes work and courage to face what we are lacking and need help with. I believe that’s why I kept putting off Genesis 20. It’s amazing how scripture continues to teach, correct and rebuke.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

I’m grateful that tucked into this study of Genesis God reminded me how important it is to:

  • find the courage and strength to lean on Him and not myself,
  • leave all sin at the foot of the cross for Christ to cover,
  • move forward striving to be a better person each time we pick ourselves up and dust off the mess we created or had to endure, and
  •  offer grace to others AND ourselves as we move closer to being the person He intended for us to be for His kingdom, glory and good work.

 

 

 

 

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Genesis 19 – Hesitation

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Ok, this chapter is a little disturbing from beginning to end. From the townspeople trying to break and rape the angels, to Lot’s daughters getting him drunk so they could take advantage of him to have children. We read about things just as horrible, if not more horrific, in our news feeds every day, but I think when we read it in the Bible it seems as if it’s out-of-place and shouldn’t be included in such an important religious text. This is one of the reasons it’s easier for me to believe man didn’t write the Bible, but God did through man’s hand. Surely, they would have left out some parts, including these, if it had been up to mankind.

In the midst of these verses, a wonderful image stood out to me.

When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. (v.16)

Having to leave their home and all the knew behind so quickly must have been very unsettling, especially after the encounter with angry townspeople and knowing everyone and everything you knew were getting ready to be completely destroyed. Transitions and change can lead to hesitation or lingering. Doubt, denial, fear, and insecurity creep into our hearts and minds even when it’s our choice to make the change. However, I love the image of the angels/men grasping their hands and leading them to safety.  Are you going through a transition period?

It seems to be going around with most everyone in my family or circle of friends. Whether it’s a transition to a  school, home, job, relationship, financial challenges or family role, a transition means change and it can be difficult and strenuous emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s much easier to linger in what we already know instead of walking into the unknown.

When faced with transition, we can react in a multitude of different ways. Much of it depends on personality, experience,  and the strength of our relationship with our Lord.

Do you draw closer to God during times of transition or farther away? I actually draw closer to Him during times of praise because my mind gets foggy in times of trial and change. I rely on intercessory prayer because my heart and mind are overwhelmed. It’s in these times I trust God knows my heart and now I also have this loving image of Him grasping my hands and leading me to safety.

We should seek Him always!  But if we’re honest, we realize that we hesitate sometimes out of fear, selfish desires, a need for control, lack of faith, etc. God desires to be in the middle of all we do, leading, guiding, grasping and loving us with each step.  However, when our lives become a hub of activity and to do lists, God is pushed out of His place (the center of our lives). He gets pushed to the back or side. It takes effort, time, devotion, trust, and grace to keep God in His rightful place in our lives, but it’s all worth it. I bet Lot would testify to that if he was sitting with us right now.

Hub is defined as “a center around which other things revolve or from which they radiate; a focus of activity, authority”.

Imagine how things would change if He was in the middle of all we do, all we think and all we say.  When we follow God, no hesitations, and no lingering in the past. What would our lives look like if we protected our time with God instead of letting it be the first thing we pushed aside when our schedule got busy? We can more readily access Him, recognize Him, follow His lead, and feel His hand reaching for us when we are in touch with Him through His written word and prayer.

May we boldly step forward grasping God’s hand as we begin each new day. Never looking back to what has passed, never lingering in the pain or sin, but without hesitation keep our eyes on the cross.

 

 

Genesis 18 – Bold

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bold
bōld/
adjective
( person, action, or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous 
In case you are just joining us, we’re on a listening adventure through Genesis this year. Tackling one chapter each week and exploring new treasures, truths, and wisdom.

This week, it would be easy for me to sit, research and marvel at the unique visit from God and his companions to inform Abraham and Sarah of the child she would bear. But something else slapped me in the face today I as listened to Genesis 18.

As God explains to Abraham that they are headed to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if the wickedness and evil He has heard about it true, Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? (v. 22-24)

It occurred to me how bold it was for Abraham to question the Lord and defend such a wicked city. And he doesn’t stop there.

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?” (v. 27-28)

Abraham even continued his plea and questioning in verses 31 and 32.  Now, that’s bold! I wonder if Abraham was wondering to himself just how far he could take this conversation with the Creator of all things? Or if he thought he should just take the amazing blessing (a promised child) God had just shared with him and shut up? It made me consider our lives today and how social media is used to spread hate, horrible language, and offensive images. I have said to my own children, “If you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face or in front of me,  then don’t post it!” We have removed the personal level and taken the heart out of people. When you don’t have to see the reaction of heartbreak or embarrassment it’s a lot easier to throw out mean or hurtful words.

Truth, controversy, love and the sharing of differing opinions are always tougher face-to-face. Worth it, but much harder. However, here was Abraham face-to-face with God sharing his bold desires and prayer for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. How many of us won’t even pray bold prayers or have bold conversations with our Heavenly Father because we are fearful? And what is it we are afraid of? Is it His anger, that He might turn us down, that He might take away a blessing, that we don’t want to get our hopes up, that our faith might not hold tight or that we don’t’ deserve it?

I’ve faced all of those fears in my prayer life and walk with God, but when they try to creep in, we have to boldly take hold of this truth: God loves us! He can handle the bold conversations and prayers! His plan is perfect! We are forgiven and treasured! No wonder the Bible reminds us over and over again to “Fear Not!” God knew how Satan and his demons would use our fear to hinder our relationship with Christ and mute our faith.  God knew we would need His loving reminders to overcome it and keep our eyes on Him.

My prayer is that we will all be as bold as Abraham with our love. Bold to believe, bold in hope and bold in faith. That’s a world where I see prayers starting to shift the evil and crooked patterns of this world. That’s a world where I can imagine so much more happiness, love, and contentment for all of God’s people.

 

Genesis 17 – What’s in a Name?

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Related imageChapter 17 is rich with extraordinary happenings and a real turning point for all mankind. From covenants, new names, circumcision, and laughter so joyous Abram falls on his face (although I’m pretty sure when it came to the circumcision part, there wasn’t as much laughter) this chapter is full. Even though I’m drawing the focus in on one aspect of this incredible chapter of Genesis, I hope you will take some time to explore the other topics on a deeper level.  They each hold significant meaning and revelation.

What caught my eye most this week were all the names. New names and name changes filled the verses of this chapter.  Right off the bat, in verse 1, we see God reveal Himself to Abram using a new name.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. (v. 1)

In Hebrew, God Almighty means “El Shaddai” and on God’s fifth appearance to Abram, He introduces this new name for Himself. At first glance, this may seem like commonplace because throughout scripture God introduces us to new names for Himself. Ancient of Days, Father/Abba, “Most High”, Elohim, El-Shaddai, Yahweh, Jehovah, and Adonai, just to name a few. But, what makes this interesting to me is that in this chapter not only does God give Himself a new name, but He also gives Abram and Sarai new names.

In Biblical times and in many other cultures, names hold tremendous significance. Their meanings are relevant and known. I feel as if we have lost this in our culture. So often we choose a name for our child off the list of trending names or the family tree not even looking up or considering the meaning. I remember having a bookmark as a child that had my name “Allison” and its meaning “Truthful One” listed on it. I have always remembered and pondered it. Names hold power. Consider how often we are called by our names every day, year and century.

If I was called “truthful one” all day instead of “Allison” that would be great, but imagine if your name had a negative meaning associated with it. I imagine the voicemail, “Hello, this is quarrelsome. I’m unable to take your call right now, please leave a message and I’ll return it when I can.”

Let’s take a look at some of the name changes and meanings from this chapter.

Abram, (meaning high father), will now be called Abraham (father of a multitude). This is surely an incredible name for someone who only has one son at the present time. God is getting ready to break through to Abraham and make His promise real in name and deed.

Sarai (meaning quarrelsome), will now be called Sarah which means “princess”. Sarah will now be the princess of a multitude. Can you imagine that title? She certainly got an upgrade in this covenant.

Isaac, the son God has promised Abraham that he and Sarah will have, means laughter. How perfect since Abraham fell flat on his face laughing when God told him he would have a son at 100 years old. This wasn’t laughter of disbelief, but one of joy and great delight. What a wonderful name to have and be reminded throughout your life that your Dad was so joyous he laughed until he fell over.

And, then there is Ishmael (Abram’s son who Hagar gave birth to). The Lord tells Hagar to call him this because the Lord heard her cry out in anguish and misery from mistreatment from Sarah. Ishmael means “God hears”.

God did a lot of the naming of people back in the Old Testament and I find the research behind the meaning of names very intriguing. However, Chapter 17 is also the beginning of a great covenant that weaves itself all through scripture to present day. I pray you will sit, ponder and study all the layers of this magnificent chapter because they will help us unlock the mystery and truth of the Bible as we continue through Genesis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 16 – He sees you!

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We see some major mistakes and regrets in chapter 16. In short, not trusting in God’s promise of uncountable descendants, Sarai (Abram’s wife) offers her slave (Hagar) to her husband as another wife in the hopes she can bear Abram the children she hasn’t been able to give him.  Both Abram and his wife must have grown impatient with God’s plan, or lost faith in it, to go along with this new plan they came up with. As most any woman can imagine, when the “new and younger” wife gets pregnant this leads to jealousy, anger, and an all-out power struggle. This is the start of a struggle begin nations and families that still exists today, but that’s not the focus of today’s blog.

After Hagar runs away from Sarai’s mistreatment, God finds her and says, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” Genesis 16:8

Does that sound familiar? Think back to Genesis 3:9 as the Lord calls out to Adam after he has joined Eve in eating of the forbidden fruit.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9

Adam and Eve are hiding in shame after they disobeyed God’s command, and their eyes have opened to the knowledge of both good and evil. “Where are you?” is what we say when someone is hiding, but we want to find them. But there is another important thing about this question being asked. To find them, we must be looking for them and to be looking for them must mean they are important or valuable. God never ceases to seek and follow us. No matter how far we run, how deep the hole we dig for ourselves, how much we undo all He desires for us . . . He doesn’t stop seeking us out, loving us and desiring to bring us back into His fold.

Consider how broken, alone, uncertain, fearful and betrayed Sarai must have felt as she ran away pregnant to an unknown place. But, God follows and finds her. He goes to her and she gives Him the most beautiful name.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:8

We love and serve a God who sees us, knows us, loves us and desires to draw us back to Him. What a beautiful reminder today of the mighty and loving God that created each of us and all we see. I pray you will sit for just a few moments and marvel at how BIG our God’s love for each of us must be. Do you hear Him calling, “Where are you?” Lean into the truth that He sees you! That you are important enough for Him to follow to the ends of the Earth.

Genesis 15 – Shield & Covenant

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I’m not sure the magnitude or awesomeness of this chapter has ever hit me the way it did when I read it this week. There are so many incredible things going on in these 21 verses. I can only cover a few, but I hope you will sit and explore this chapter all week.

Let’s start at the top.

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:  “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. (v. 1)

The first two words are “after this”. Let’s not forget last week in chapter 14 we saw the first war recorded in scripture. Abram had just been through a real battle and saved Lot’s life. I wonder if his heart was still pounding with fear and adrenaline when the Lord came in a vision and gently said, “Don’t be afraid. I am your shield.”? This is the fourth time God has appeared to Abram, but the first time He has proclaimed He will be His shield. This image of God being our shield may start in Genesis 15, but is an incredibly powerful image that is carried all the way into the New Testament through Ephesians and 1 Peter.

who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5

I encourage you to take time this week and do a search through the Bible for the word shield and explore all the scriptures and promises of God being our protector and shield. We may not just be coming out of a literal war zone, but every day is a battle.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

There is one more incredible thing I wanted to point out. In verses 12-21 we see two important things happen. First, God shows Abram what is going to happen to his people. And not just next week, but in generations to come. I find it interesting that it says, “as the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him (v. 12)”.  As much as we think we want to know the future, I think if we were told what was coming,  it could be horrifying and certainly a great burden to carry knowing what we, and those we love, will face. I wonder if that knowledge was the darkness that overcame Abram?

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward, they shall come out with great possessions. (v. 13-14)

Lastly, we see God create a covenant with Abram. Certainly, this helped lift some of the heaviness that Abram may have been feeling knowing about the struggles his offspring would face. I believe Abram awoke trusting God would not just be his shield, but a shield for his descendants as well. I pray we all wake up daily clinging to that truth that every step we take and obstacle we face, we go into battle with Mighty protection.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (v. 17-21)

Genesis 14 – Triple M

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This is an exciting chapter. There are many “firsts” in Genesis because it’s the first book of the Bible. In chapter 14, we see the first war recorded in scripture as well as the first priest. However, there is something interesting about this priest, Melchizedek. We could call him the Triple M, for Mystery Man Melchizedek. It was fun to run into Melchizedek again in my study. I have researched and blogged about him before.

After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High. Genesis 14:17-18

Other than in Genesis, the mysterious man Melchizedek is only mentioned two other times in scripture, in Hebrews and not again until Psalm 110. Intrigued, I had to dig a little deeper. Who was this high priest?

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner because He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

The Lord has sworn an oath and will not take it back: “Forever, You are a priest like Melchizedek.” Psalm 110:4

Here is what we know from scripture. He was a priest who served God Himself. It says there is no record of his birth or death, leading some to believe he was divine. His name means King of Salem and King of Peace.

For this Melchizedek—

King of Salem, priest of the Most High God,
who met Abraham and blessed him
as he returned from defeating the kings,
and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything;
first, his name means king of righteousness,
then also, king of Salem,
meaning king of peace;
without father, mother, or genealogy,
having neither beginning of days nor end of life,
but resembling the Son of God— remains a priest forever. Hebrews 7:1-3

I find it interesting that Melchizedek appears as the first priest in the Bible, but no family genealogy is given when he is introduced to us. Consider all the genealogy we have already read in just the first chapters of Genesis. When Biblical authors introduce new people throughout scripture they usually explain their family line. Not only that, he shows up with wine and bread just like he was offering communion to Abram. But that would be impossible, right?! How would this man know about our Creator and His son that would come centuries later to save us all? The Last Supper certainly hadn’t happened yet.

Once again, I’m left with more questions than answers, but the questions we ask and consider are just as vital to our growth as Christians as the answers we find among the scriptures. As with most mysteries, there are several schools of thought on who Melchizedek really was.

Some think he was Jesus, some the archangel Michael, others think he was just an ordinary human. Hebrew history/tradition tells us it was Shem, Noah’s Son, that was still alive at the time of Abraham. That would certainly make him the oldest man alive, qualifying him as a candidate for the order of Melchizedek.

Apparently, there is even a Dead Sea scroll that says Melchizedek will be the one to carry out God’s judgments and deliver His people from the hands of Satan.

I went down the rabbit hole and spent over an hour reading different commentaries and thoughts on Melchizedek. This is one of those things we won’t know for certain until we reach Heaven, but it’s also a great example of what keeps me coming back over and over again to God’s word. There’s always a surprise, mystery to discover, truth to savor and situation to consider. I encourage you to do some searching on your own about the greatness of Melchizedek.

We can only find the answers if we ask and seek the answers.