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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

Genesis 13 – No Strings Attached

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Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Genesis 13:8-9

This week we find Abram and Lot at a crossroads. They are both so rich in gold and livestock, they discover they can’t dwell among one another anymore. There just isn’t enough room for both of them. We see many businesses in the past and present who are founded by two individuals, but there comes a time when there isn’t room for both and one leaves or starts a new business. I think Abram and Lot were in this same situation. They weren’t fighting over money or patents, but land and resources. Here’s what caught my attention.

Abram basically says to Lot, “You know what? This just isn’t working. We are close relatives (kinsmen) and this division is putting a strain on our relationship. Why don’t you pick whatever land you want and I’ll take what you don’t pick.” This is extremely generous. Very rarely do my daughter and son every offer the other the first slice of cake or turn with a new toy unless there is an ulterior motive. I pray they will get there with age and maturity, but we have some work to do. Abram freely offers Lot to take whatever he wants with no strings attached and then doesn’t even pit a fit or complain. He doesn’t need to win, be the best, have the best, or even have the last word. He just wants peace and resolution.

I wonder how Abram pulled that off? Was he so strong in his faith that he knew whatever Lot chose God was going to make sure he got all he needed? Was he just at the end of his rope and threw up his hands in desperation and exhaustion from the conflict? Maybe a bit of both. Either way, I love that faith of his. No matter how many times Abram messes up, and we have and will see more of that, he returns back to God for forgiveness and redemption.

This little portion of Genesis 13 makes me ponder a few things. One, am I the one who always have to have the last word in a conversation or disagreement? Why am I like that? Why can’t I just sit, listen and trust God to do His thing? Do I have a strong desire to always win? Where does that come from? Why can’t I just trust that my view of winning and losing isn’t what God’s looks like and His way is always best? Do I need to be the best or have the best things in my life? Why is that important to me? What idols (anything I think about more than God) am I clinging to?

These questions are very convicting for me this week. I needed this lesson from Abram. I pray we all will continue to develop a humble trust in our Lord’s plan and a desire to seek peace and resolution with grateful hearts and no strings attached.