Genesis 25:23 | Will God Claim You?

I was born into an interesting family. Interesting to me but not wealthy or famous. My dad is from one part of the country and during a war he was stationed in another part of the country where my mother lived. These two families from across the country did not mix very much because of the distance and this merger was long before the invent of the internet and social media. I grew up spending time in both worlds and identify with both families. I was born into these families and they are a part of who I am.

At the beginning of human history God brings about the nations through the families of very interesting individuals. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob form the primary linage of the Jewish people a lineage that provides a savior for the entire world, Jesus. What is interesting is that all of the children of Abraham form the foundation of future nations and one example of that is captured in the promise God made to Rebekah, who is Isaac’s wife, about twins that are inside her body.

23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23 ESV

There is so much interesting about these twins who will be very different from each other with one being much stronger than the other. Imagine God telling you that your children will be the fathers of nations? Entire nations will be born from this family. God also makes an even more fascinating qualification about Jacob one of the twins and his parents before him. God claims to be their God. Normally someone will claim to worship or serve a certain God, but God himself claims that he is the God of one of these twins Jacob.

Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament God describes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in this peculiar way. When God revealed himself to Moses through the burning bush, he told Moses that he is the same God that Moses’ fathers knew.

32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. Acts 7:32 ESV

First God uses the present tense to describe his relationship with these patriarchs. “I am” the God of your father not “I was” the God of your father. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob while dead to this world are alive with God in heaven. God knows them still and continues on in his relationship with them. Second God always speaks of the individual relationship he has with each of them. Abraham’s relationship with God was not Isaac’s relationship. Isaac knew God and held his own relationship with God and the same is true with Jacob. Jacob never knew Abraham but Jacob worshiped and loved the same God. Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, did not know God in this way and God never writes that he is the God of Esau.

12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:12-13 ESV

It is a shocking revelation to hear that God “hated” Esau. We dislike to thinking in these terms about God and his thoughts towards us but it is a reality. God and Esau are estranged because of sin but Jacob even in spite of his sins is loved by God. There is a relationship present where Jacob draws near to God and followed in the ways that God wanted for him. Esau did not have a relationship and he did not build a relationship with God.

Today right now as a follower of Christ and a Christian saved by Jesus I know that God loves me. I know that God is my God. Not because of any good deeds, because my sins are great, but because Jesus died to save me. Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham are loved by God because of their faith. I am able to share in this faith because of Jesus. When confronted by God in his burning bush moment Moses believed what God told him. Each of us today has an opportunity to respond to God in faith and trust him. We each have before us the love letter from God to human kind as found in the Bible. Will we believe God as Jacob did? Will we individually be born into this eternal family? Will God be your God? Or like Esau will we be limited to an earthly family and nation? Like Esau will God never claim to be our God?

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 ESV

Genesis 22:2 | Holding Nothing Back

God is demanding and he asks more of me than I want to give sometimes. I recognize that I am a terrible selfish hypocritical Christian. I want all the benefits of being a child of God but I want none of the responsibility and I want none of the difficulties. But God never asks unreasonable things of me. He asks me to be giving and not selfish and I find that difficult. He wants only what is best and at the end of the day I want only to worship and love him. There is a famous moment in Genesis where God asks something unreasonable of Abraham. It would be an unreasonable request of me but Abraham’s life has been leading up to this moment. Because Abraham, who is the father of faith, has built a life that does exactly what God asks of him.

2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2 ESV

Be horrified at the request if you must but don’t judge God with ill intent. There are a few things we need to understand before we judge God incorrectly. We need to understand God’s place and our role in His world to fully grasp how serious God is about reconciling humanity to him as creator.

First the question naturally arises that God is asking Abraham to do something that is evil or against God’s own law. But we need to remember the context. Abraham lived before the nation of Israel is created. The nation state laws of how to worship God had not been written. But Abraham knows how to approach God. He knows right from wrong and has learned directly from his family leading all the way back to Adam. Laws like marrying a close relative have not been put in place (Abraham is married to his half-sister). Moses is not yet born to accept the Ten Commandments from God. So technically there is no law from God against what he has requested at this point in history. Abraham however does not need a law to know that God values life and this request is out of the ordinary. Abraham has a lifetime following God and God had proven himself to be faithful in everything he had ever promised Abraham. If this is what God wanted then Abraham knows that the miraculous is around the corner.

The second thing that stands out is that we are here for God not for ourselves. God gave Isaac to Abraham and if this is God’s plan to accomplish his promises then Abraham has learned to trust and obey. Jesus put it in these terms to the disciples.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

Now some might say God is an ego and God is all about himself. My response is YES! As Creator who made everything to worship him and him alone he is worthy of that adoration. An ego trip is someone who has a beginning and an end demanding undeserved attention. God is not a man or something created. Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is the Creator of time itself. We all exist because of him.

36 And as [Jesus] rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:36-40 ESV

Finally, God has never asked of anyone something he himself has not already done or would be willing to do himself. The epistle Hebrews makes a great point about Jesus. He is a priest who can sympathize with each of us because he has experienced temptation, sorrow, pain, and death. Jesus has experienced first hand rejection and he knows how hard it is to be poor and in want.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV

God asked the unreasonable of Abraham a most horrifying task. Yet that is exactly what God did for you and me. He gave up his own son so that we might have life. God did not have Abraham actually go through with the request but God himself did sacrifice Jesus his own son on the cross. Isaac could not be that sacrifice but Jesus the son of God would be that perfect sacrifice.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17 ESV

God has not withheld anything. He is the creator who has made life, salvation, and grace available to all who would trust him. Abraham loved God so much that he would not even withhold his own son from God. God loves us so much that he did give Jesus for us. Would that we all yield to this moment of grace and proclaim Jesus King and Lord of all.

Genesis 21:10 | Bad Behavior

The influence of money can make seemingly otherwise normal and nice people lose their minds. Atlanta recently made the news when an armored truck with the back doors open lost more than one hundred thousand dollars fluttering away onto the interstate like a scene from a Hollywood movie. I have driven that stretch of interstate. I can’t imagine stopping or getting out of my car on that busy section of road but the amount of cash freely blowing around and pilling up on the shoulder would make even the most passive person do something rash. People stopped to take what was not theirs with the intent to keep not return. I heard many commentators speak the childish refrain “finders’ keepers” and many more agreeing.

When it comes to an inheritance from a rich relative people can be even less rational. The desire to control an inheritance from the person passing away to the those who are waiting for a windfall is also something Hollywood loves to tell stories about. One of my personal favorites is Richard Pryor in a movie called Brewster’s Millions. Brewster is an unaccomplished average guy who happens to be the only remaining relative of some multi-millionaire. The multi-millionaire leaves instructions that Brewster will inherit 30 million with the catch that he must spend every dime in 30 days and have no assets to show for it. If he succeeds then Brewster will inherit the full fortune of 300 million. The premise is that Brewster will learn to appreciate the fortune he is about to inherit. All kinds of bad behavior and bad people then set up the plot in the fight to control the fortune.

We see an inheritance cause issues for Abraham in Genesis and it is a plot that shows even those God chooses to use are still sinners and people like the rest of humanity. Abraham is a wealthy man who commands a household that is strong and wealthy enough to compete with the surrounding kings and kingdoms. Yet Abraham has a problem. He does not have any children with his wife Sarah. This means that there is a line of people who are plotting and trying to determine how they might inherit all of this wealth and power one day. The person most likely in line to take over would be Abraham’s son Ishmael who was born to Sarah’s servant. (Yes, it is messed up and yes it was Sarah’s idea to help Abraham have an heir). Then something happens for the 100-year-old Abraham. Sarah becomes pregnant and has a son in her old age. This son now would be the true blood heir to the promise of God and to the kingdom Abraham has built.

After giving birth to this son Sarah asks something of Abraham that would not be acceptable in the polite society of today.

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.” Genesis 21:10 ESV

Sarah has a problem. Abraham has two sons and one of them is not hers. There will be a future competition. There will be bad blood between these two especially since the older son is not hers all because of money and power. She must have seen a glimpse of the future and moved to consolidate power.

Before I go any further, I need speak to the elephant in the room. The matriarch of the Jewish and Christian faiths owned slaves? Yes, is the answer and yes the Bible allows slavery to have a place even though slavery is a corrosive evil. Slavery is a loaded word in contemporary culture and I have written in the past on exactly how and by what means God permitted slavery in a sin filled world. Slavery in the context of Abraham is not the same racist slavery one immediately imagines from America’s own sinful past. My previous post on this topic is found here.

What strikes me in this scripture is a picture of Sarah realizing that these two sons will compete for the promise of God and that she wanted to give her son the best possible chance. Her motivation is purely selfish and displays a major character flaw in her personality. Every person who has ever lived has at least one sinful flaw or hang up that haunts them and weighs on their soul. Some are more obvious then others but God sees them all.

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. Romans 3:9-10 ESV

When Paul tells the church in Rome that they are not any better than the godless around them it is a shock to the reader. Everyone including Abraham and Sarah are imperfect sinful people who sometimes fail to live up to their own standards and could never live up to God’s standards.

Think of the godliest person you know. Would they have pulled over to pick up cash blowing around on the side of the road? Maybe. Do you think they would have though about it? Absolutely. I am a sinner. Anyone reading this is a sinner. Never be shocked by bad behavior because it is our nature. It is only the restraint of God, earthly law and order, and a lack of opportunity that prevents people from treating others in hateful ways all the time. And yes, taking that money from the owner of the armored car is hateful toward that owner. Sarah feared for her child and set a plan in motion to force out Abraham’s other son. Can we really blame her for these thoughts? Have we not wished ill on others also?

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 ESV

We know what is right but we will never faithfully do what is right every time. Some will rush to do wrong and revel in it at any chance. God knows we are sinners. He knew Sarah’s heart and still blessed her with a son. God knows we can’t live to his perfect standards and obey the two greatest commandments. So, he did something about it.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 ESV

Paul the author of most of the New Testament admits he is the worst of sinners. Sarah was a sinner. The author of this post is a sinner. You dear reader are a sinner. When compared to God we are not righteous. That is why I need Jesus. That is why Paul needs Jesus. That is why Sarah needs Jesus. That is why you dear reader need Jesus. Because he came to save those who are sinners and reconcile them to God. God shows his mercy to sinners through Christ. If you have not already done so thank Jesus, who is God in the flesh, and thank him. Give him the sin and ask him for forgiveness. He is quick to save those who recognize their sin.

Genesis 15:12 | Glory after the Darkness

Abraham has a dream and it is a very normal dream to have children and build on the land where he lives. God has promised Abraham that his offspring would inherit the land yet Abraham is getting older and he had no children. Abraham has done the hard work of waiting and trusting God. We are told that Abraham’s trust in God is what made Abraham righteous. One can imagine the pressure of those around Abraham fighting for a spot to inherit all that he has accumulated because obviously God had failed Abraham.

“I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” Genesis 15:7-8 ESV

God assures Abraham that he will have an inheritance and this land will belong to his children. But Abraham asks for more from God than an assurance. How will he know that God’s promise is real when he does not even have so much as a child that he can see with his own eyes? God responds with a vision of the future and this vision is described as “dreadful” for Abraham.

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Genesis 15:12 ESV

Just as Christ had to endure the cross before his glory God presents to Abraham a full picture of what will happen for generations after Abraham is gone. Abraham is told about Egypt and slavery. He is told about the Exodus and then after more generations the people, Abraham’s people, would inherit the land just as God promised.  

13 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. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:13-16 ESV

It may have been a shock to Abraham if he was thinking the inheritance would be immediate. But within this vision it is clear that God is going to do all this. God is in control. History will be ugly and messy but it will be accomplished just as God desires. Abraham only needs to wait and watch.

Jesus had much of a similar situation trying to explain to the disciples that there would be darkness before glory. The disciples were excited and hopeful at the idea that Jesus would be a king. Jesus would kick Rome out of the country and bring Jerusalem back to glory. They knew God had promised to do that but they could not grasp the idea that God has a longer-term plan at play.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Matthew 16:21-22 ESV

Abraham waiting and watching was all that was required. Peter only needed to wait and watch to see the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. God has promised and God will deliver. When I look back at my life there has been much anxiety and desire for certain things. But truth be told much of that was wasted energy because God had already gone before me and God had already prepared a life for me in advance. After the wait and after the storm God will be glorified and we who are his children will after the wait and after the storm be eternally with our father and creator.

12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Hebrews 10:12 ESV

Genesis 14:22 | The Priestly King

There is so much packed into the brief narrative in Genesis Chapter 14. An entire epic could be told from this one chapter. First there is a war involving that infamous city Sodom where they are overtaken by rival kings. Then there is Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who is captured in this skirmish. Then there is Abraham coming to the rescue with a band of 300 men from his own household. Abraham not only rescues his nephew Lot but the king of Sodom and his people. As if that were not interesting enough after the victory a mysterious previously unheard-of priestly king shows up to congratulate and bless Abraham. In return Abraham gives this priestly king a “tenth” of everything!

There is so much between the lines that we are left to think on. If Abraham had 300 fighting men how many did the kings he defeated have? I imagine that his force was much smaller. Abraham did not live in a city and he was not recognized as a king the way the nations forming around him were building.

In the midst of this narrative I am struck by this interaction between Abraham and the king of Sodom.  

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ Genesis 14:22-23 ESV

The king of Sodom is grateful to Abraham. He wants only his people returned and based on what is right in the spoils of war encourages Abraham to keep anything else he wants. Abraham tells him that he will not keep even the strap of a sandal that belongs to the city of Sodom. Now what strikes me is that Abraham gives us an insight into the preparations he made before marching into battle.

We are given a glimpse into a shrewd leader of his house hold who kept a defense force ready be called up in a harsh lawless world. So, we know Abraham has capabilities physically but we also see that Abraham was prepared spiritually. He tells the king of Sodom that before going to battle he made a promise to God that he would not take the spoils. Was this because of something God asked him to promise? The way Abraham states this is like God has told him he is going to win but he wants him to promise to not take a thing because Sodom is not to be trusted. Success and wealth will be given to him by God not wealth that comes from the world. Abraham “lifted” his hand to God and agreed to the plan.

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:18-20 ESV

The second thing that jumps out is this mysterious figure of Melchizedek the king of Salem who is recognized as “priest of God Most High”. There are some instant facts that jump out. 1) The first priest mentioned in the Bible. 2) He is both a king and a priest which is significant 3) Abraham gives him a “tenth of everything” with the implication that Abraham gave this priestly king 10% of all of his existing wealth not the spoils of war since we have already recognized that Abraham did not take any spoils of war. Like I stated earlier there is so much packed into this short narrative.

The fact that Melchizedek is both priest and king is significant and worth exploring.

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. Hebrews 7:1-3 ESV

Melchizedek is recognized as a resembling Jesus who is the only other priest and king. In the organization of the nation of Israel the kings and priest were not the same. The priest would appoint a king based on God’s direction. There was a separation of duties. Even today the Government and the Church are separate by design. Christ came to establish a church with his death on the cross but when he comes a second time he will return as a king bringing all nations and people into his authority.

Abraham after the success of war is blessed by a Christ like person and his reaction is to submit to this authority and give him a tenth of “everything”. Melchizedek is a surprise and Abraham recognizes God’s presence. The implication from the author of Hebrews is that Melchizedek has no father or mother and came just for this moment to Abraham to bless him. The implication is that Melchizedek is Christ in a moment before his birth. If this seems to be a surprise it should not because God is always at work intervening and directing the lives of people.

15 [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-20 ESV

Jesus is the first of all creation. The image of the invisible God. God made himself into the form of a man Melchizedek, king of Salem which “by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace” (Hebrews 7:2 ESV). And Abraham recognized him as head of the church and glorified him as God. We who live in this moment of grace and peace with God have a clearer revelation of who Jesus is and what he has done for us to reconcile all things to himself than what was available to Abraham. Dear reader if you have not already done so is now the time to be reconciled to the priestly king who created us and gave us life? He is near if you will draw near to him and recognize him.

Genesis 13:11 | I Pick Me

What have you chosen for yourself? A job, a significant other, an alternate lifestyle, or life in a certain city? Are you chasing a dream that you believe is for you and you are striving to reach out and take hold of it? What if what you want is not the best for you? Many people choose a life that sets them on a path of destruction. How do you know if this life and these choices are the right ones?

11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Genesis 13:11 ESV

Lot is the nephew follower of Abraham the father of faith. When God called Abraham to leave his family land Lot also left home and followed Abraham to wherever he was headed. Over time both Lot and Abraham grow their own households to the point that there is conflict over resources. So, Abraham gives Lot the choice of what lands to spread out in. It is interesting that Abraham the older would give Lot such a choice. Maybe that is just the way Abraham was or maybe Abraham liked Lot that much that he would do such a thing. What we do know is that Lot chose the direction that looked most promising in worldly wealth.

10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt Genesis 13:10 ESV

This land he chooses looks like what he might have imagined the Garden of Eden looked like. It held the potential of Egypt that he had seen with his own eyes. Lot effectively chose for himself a land in the direction of wealth and power. Lot was not alone in seeing this land as a land of potential. There were already several cities in the land two of which Sodom and Gomora live in infamy even today.

Lot could have turned to the hills, offered Abraham the first choice, or even asked to stay with Abraham, but he “chose for himself” what he wanted. Abraham accepted the choice and something interesting happened.

14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. Genesis 13:14-15 ESV

God chose for Abraham and tells him to “Lift up your eyes” to see the land he would receive. God once again promises the land to Abraham that this land would be blessed by God and it would be the land of his offspring. We do not know what Abraham would have chosen for himself because he set all that aside to submit to what God had chosen for him.  Henry Morris writes the following about Lot after he choose the wealth and power of this world. “Lot first pitched his tent toward Sodom, but soon he dwelt in Sodom (Genesis 14:12), and finally [Lot] sat in the gate of Sodom (Genesis 19:1) as one of its business leaders. Thus began the tragedy which would ultimately destroy him and his family” (Morris, 304).

Lot operating the orbit of Abraham receives blessing and growth but when he leaves to seek his own desire and his own piece of the world, he declines and must be rescued by Abraham. It is an unrecognized paradox that when we seek our best and when we seek what we want we lose in what really matters.

39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 ESV

Jesus speaking to the crowds tells them of this paradox. If you want to choose a life for yourself you will lose the eternal life that is found only in Jesus. If you give to Jesus your life, he will in turn give you a life that never could have been imagined. Abraham yielded his life to God and trusted him. Lot choose for himself and trusted in himself.

Christ calls and ask that we lay our lives, our dreams, our passions at his feet. In return he will give us lives, dreams, and passions that will glorify God both now and in eternity. Lives that are greater than anything we could have secured for ourselves.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 3:20 ESV

Genesis 12:1 | Step out in Faith

A famous concept and statement is “Step out in faith”. It means that one will take a physical action based on an in immaterial belief and this statement is applied to all kinds of life situations. Stepping out of an airplane with a parachute would be a moment of faith for me. I know intellectually how the parachute works but that moment of stepping out of the perfectly good airplane into a free fall requires some kind of faith that I don’t have. Taking a new job requires a step of faith especially if one quits a perfectly good paying job to try something new. The first time I moved to a new job my anxiety went up because all I had was a letter proposing a start date with the new company and on faith I was writing a letter of resignation for my current job. What if this letter for the new job is not real? What if they back out and I am left with no job at all? I was stepping out in faith and the reality made me nervous. Steps of faith are moment of life defining challenges. They are not quickly forgotten and taking that step of faith requires something more than passive observation. A physical action based on an intangible belief. The Bible contains many of these examples and they have been inspirational and challenging to me.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1 ESV

In the beginning of the world before the establishment of strong central governments God asks Abraham to leave the security of his family’s home and his kinsman’s protection to travel to a location not yet revealed. God asked Abraham to take a step of faith.

6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Galatians 3:6 ESV

God loved Abraham not because he was a “good” person or because he followed the law (the ten commandments will not be written for at least 400 more years), God loved Abraham because Abraham trusted God and he demonstrated that trust by stepping out in faith.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 ESV

There are many biblical examples of stepping out in faith. This faith did not require that one clean their life up first or that they have everything worked out. Many times, the stepping out in faith is messy and stressful and there is nothing messier than Peter stepping out of the boat in faith.

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31 ESV

Bold Peter is the only Disciple who even attempted to get out of the boat in the storm and how many times has the reader heard God asking something that is impossible and scary? Peter got out of the boat and “walked on water” which is more than anyone else in history can say. Taking that first step of faith may not be the hardest part for some but then when the reality and the harshness of the situation comes flooding in it may be even more difficult to stay the course. When Abraham left home one wonders if he missed those comforts? Did he encounter difficulties or hardships that might have made him want to return? Peter was overcome by the realization that he did not step out of a boat on calm waters but in the middle of a storm and choppy waves. Jesus stepped in and asked him a question. What happened to your faith? Why did you doubt?

I have taken many steps of faith in my life and when the next step comes I will be able to look back and see that God, Jesus, has been faithful to take care of me in that transition between what was and what he has called me to be. Sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I go kicking and screaming. Sometimes I don’t take that step right away. But I know intellectually Christ is faithful and true. If I will take the step he will be there just like he was with Peter to “immediately reach out his hand” the moment I need him.

For some reading this God is calling you to take a first step with him. That first step of action is scary but it is a step in which God will be there and he will be pleased. He is calling you to be in relationship and that step will be credited to you as righteousness because he asked you to step out in faith for him.

20 No unbelief made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:20-22 ESV

Christmas: The World Blessed

After the fall of man and the entirety of creation falling under a curse, God chose Abraham to start the plan to restore the creation. God wanted to move forward with a grand plan to bless the world and He wanted to use Abraham to accomplish that purpose.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:2-3 ESV

By way of Abraham God promised that all the families of the earth would be blessed. However the promise does not work out the way I or Abraham might have envisioned. The Old Testament documents the struggles of that chosen nation and only briefly in a few instances can we see where that vision for Israel to be a blessing or an ambassador of blessing is realized in some small way. Most of the energy of Israel is spent in rebellion refusing to be that blessing. God however being God has a plan that no child of Adam can undo and that plan is Jesus.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-20 ESV

Jesus is here to fulfill the promise God made to Abraham. Jesus is here to reconcile God’s creation to God. Jesus tells the people that it is in him that Israel will perfectly fulfill the promise of being the blessing to all nations and all people.

Peter one of the Disciples of Jesus and a thoroughly Jewish man grew up in that inwardly turned culture. In a famous narrative the Holy Spirit reveals to Peter a feast of food, animals that would not be acceptable in the Jewish diet. The Holy Spirit tells Peter that nothing is unclean that God has made clean and then the vision ends. That vision was preparing Peter not about food, but about being a blessing to other people and nations just as God had promised Abraham. After that vision Peter is asked to travel to a certain man’s home and breaking all social norms Peter enters the home of a Roman and is witness to God saving a non-Jewish family.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Acts 10:34-35 ESV

Later Peter challenges the church reminding us that we are to be a blessing to all peoples of all nations confirming lessons he had learned and practiced throughout his ministry.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 ESV

This Christmas we remember that Jesus is God’s blessing and peace to all creation.