Exodus 10:21 | Darkness is the Choice

With the season of Halloween upon us I was thinking about how scary the darkness can be. Movies love to capture the imagination of what might be found down a long unstable staircase in the darkness. Nothing but spiders but hey the imagination of something unknown can send a chill down my spine. Some children want a light left on when they drift to sleep. Many of my neighbors leave lights on around their house because they fear the thief could use the darkness to lurk about. I once took a tour of a large underground cave and as part of the tour the guide had everyone stand still and then they turned the lights out. The natural state of this cave where we were at under the ground was without light. There was nothing. I could not see even the faint outlines of the person next to me. In fact I reached up to touch the person in front of me just to make sure they were still there. There was no light peaking around a corner. It was just dark like I had never experienced before.

Moses appeared before the King of Egypt right before the 9th of what would be 10 plagues on Egypt. Moses was given instructions to ask the King to let the Hebrew people go and worship the Lord. However, God knew that the King would not let them go so God prepared Moses with instructions on what this 9th plague would entail.  

21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” Exodus 10:21 ESV

Darkness that can be felt. I shudder at the idea. Light a match and darkness. Start a fire and darkness. Look to the sun and darkness. God said that this would be a darkness that could be felt. This word “felt” in the Hebrew could be translated “to grope”. Darkness that will grope. The darkness would grope its way into your being. It would have been a paralyzing blanket cast over the nation. Worse yet it is a darkness that lasts for 3 days. Imagine the despair of the Egyptian people and specifically the Egyptian King in that one of the major gods of Egypt is Ra the sun God. Insult on injury here is that Ra as creator is supposedly the father of the Egyptian King. The King’s own fatherly god Ra has been shown to be worthless before the Lord God who created the sun and everyone in Egypt plainly sees this as the case.

Paul in his opening letter to the church in Rome describes the situation.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. … 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, … 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:18-19; 22; 25 ESV

Egypt serves the creation and they worship the creation. There have been eight previous acts of God’s power and wonder over the creation to convince them that he is God and he is worthy of their attention. Yet they “suppress the truth” so they can continue to live their unrighteous lives as if God does not exist and as if they will not be accountable to their maker. Contemporary man does the same. We worship science which is our ability to manipulate the creation. Yet we still know almost nothing about the creation some will even deny there is a creation or a reality because they understand that where there is a creation there is a Creator. We worship exercise and healthy lifestyles yet we still grow old and die. We worship cults of personality in culture and yet mental health issues and dissatisfaction with life continue to increase. Why? Because we live ungodly lives in darkness contrary to what God created us for.

The Egyptians had an advantage over the modern man in that the three days of total darkness they experienced was plainly physical. They had a chance to reflect and think about the plight they found themselves in. We in the modern world are paralyzed in the darkness of our hearts yet we avoid acknowledging our current state by the distractions of entertainment and busyness that rule our lives.

A theme of darkness and light runs throughout the Bible. As I wrote here that God is light and he calls Christians to be a source of light in a dark world. It is no surprise then to hear Paul tell us the message he received from Jesus on God’s plan for this world.

I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:18 ESV

Now is the moment to turn from darkness to light, from sin to forgiveness. Jesus is calling us to worship a worthy creator. If we submit to Christ then we will be in the light. If we worship the creation which includes our own selfishness then we remove ourselves from God the source of light and will live in eternal darkness. Draw near to Christ and he will hear your cry.

Exodus 7:4 | The Light’s Great Act

There is a misconception in the culture that the God of the Old Testament is a vengeful and angry God but the God of the New Testament is loving and wants everyone to do whatever they want to be happy.  The result of these two narratives is that those who hate God and his church will talk about how unjust the angry God of the Old Testament is so that they can justify curtailing God and the church in the public square. And those who proclaim a judge-less God of the New Testament a God that desires everyone to be happy use this view to justify their own “truth” of selfish desires and hedonism. Any challenge to this judge-less God is immediately thrown out with the lecture we are not to judge others.

Both narratives are wrong about God. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God. If God changed then he would not be God.

First let us look at the judgmental God of the Old Testament. Moses traveled to Egypt to free the Israelite slaves from the oppressive Egyptians. God tells Moses that He will free the Israelite people through signs and wonders and he also tells Moses that the signs and wonders will be a judgment on Egypt.

3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. Exodus 7:3-4  ESV

Here is the God of the Old Testament condemning the Egyptians to a painful judgment that ultimately ends in the first born throughout Egypt being killed by an angel of God. This final plague and judgment was so overwhelming that the Egyptians begged the Israelites to leave.

Was this a vengeful and angry God who had no right and therefore we can condemned his action or was this a righteous judge who is justified to judge Egypt in this manner? Before answering this question remember that the Egyptians are holding the Israelites as oppressed slaves. These are the same Egyptians that set about to murder every boy born to the Israelites.  These same Egyptians that rejected God to serve after false gods. As creator of humanity and sustainer of the universe God created us to worship him and him alone.

Fast forward to the New Testament where Jesus explains God’s purpose in judgment. Jesus the loving and compassionate tells a religious man exactly what God is doing and what God is doing is not a judge-less God wanting the people to just do whatever they want.

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. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:17-19 ESV

The cultural narrative is that God loves everyone. And that is true. Jesus says that God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world. The cultural narrative also says that God just wants everyone to be happy being whoever they want to be and doing whatever they want to do. This is not true. Jesus spells it out “this is the judgment” that Jesus is the light of the world but selfish, evil, and hedonistic humanity loves the darkness and does not want the salvation of Jesus because humanity’s works are “evil”. Jesus described humanity as “evil” that includes me and not just people outside of my affinity group. Furthermore Jesus states clearly that anyone who does not believe in the Son, Jesus, and the light he brings stands judged “condemned” by God.

Just as the Egyptians were condemned because they loved the darkness wanting nothing to do with their Creator so too will we who love what is contrary to God. God has brought light and truth into a dark world yet just as the Egyptians rejected the words of God so too is this current culture stand condemned. God has not changed who he is and we have a choice of salvation through Christ or to continue to love what the darkness wants to be important. Just understand that God and the evil done in darkness are not compatible. One cannot choose this world and what is popular in this world and then stand before God without condemnation.

Dear reader Christ stands at the door to your life. Would you love the politics, the lifestyle, the anger, the disappointment, and the lust of this life more than the salvation that Christ offers where “whoever believes in him is not condemned”?

Exodus 5:22 | God’s Failure

What are the reasons people follow Jesus? Some follow him for money and fame. Some follow him because they are unhappy with their current life and are told that Jesus will make them happy. Some follow him because the family told them to do it. I followed Jesus because when I was very young God asked me to call on the name of Jesus. He pursued me and I agreed having no idea what the result would be or why I should. God asked me to submit to Jesus. How does one say “no” to God when he is there every single day? What I doubt anyone would ever claim as a reason to follow Jesus is because they want to make their life harder. Yet that is exactly what happens in many ways because God’s agenda and my agenda are not aligned. In Christian parlance there is a phrase “counting the cost” that we see hit Moses when he reluctantly confronted the King of Egypt.

Moses knew that he did not have any authority or leverage to free the Israelites from Egypt. He did not have authority over the Israelites and he did not have authority over the King of Egypt. When God calls him to go and make the outrageous demand to let the Israelites go free he goes reluctantly. The result is a failure that blows up in the face of Moses.

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2 ESV

So Pharaoh then makes life for the Israelites miserable and as his slaves he has control of the situation. The Israelites complain to Moses that this is his fault and then Moses in turn complains to God.

20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” 22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” Exodus 5:20-23 ESV

Moses encountered God at the burning bush and agreed to follow God into this mess. Nothing about this situation is comfortable for Moses. Nothing about this situation has made Moses happy. Moses had to leave his family behind. Moses left his flocks behind. This endeavor is not making him wealthy. Moses is not even sure if he will make it out of this challenge to the King of Egypt alive. What is God doing? Because at this point in the life of Moses God has not come through. The life of the Israelite slave just went from bad to even worse. As a leader of people, I can’t imagine the grief Moses must be experiencing at this moment because if this fails people will die. So, he lashes out at God “you have not delivered your people at all”.

Has God failed? Why would God not make everything roses and rainbows right at this moment? Has God failed in your life? Why is there still pain? Why do your enemies still hold power? Why do the “good” suffer and the evil triumph?

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? … 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:28;33 ESV

Following God comes at a cost. It comes at the cost of my ambition, my plans, and my desires. Following God requires everything else to be pushed aside. God is not something that one adds to life to make one happy. God is not a magic mantra that adds blessings to all my desires and all my plans.

The disciples followed Jesus in part because they expected the Messiah to be a triumphant king kicking Rome out of the Hebrew state. When they realized this was not going to happen there was despair like we see here in Moses.

16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:16 ESV

Jerusalem would be a death trap for Jesus. The disciples knew that the Pharisees wanted them dead. Thomas has despaired of all his dreams and hope for blessings from God in this life. God has failed. Jesus has failed.

I am just like Thomas and Moses. How many times have I been angry with God. Why did you bring me down this road only to see my job lost? Why did you bring me down this road only to see friends or family turn on me?

Did Jesus not promise that we would see the glory of God? Does Moses not get a chance to see the glory of God in the most spectacular parting of the Red Sea? Does Thomas, doubting Thomas, not get a chance to touch the nail scared hands of the resurrected Jesus? Do we even now not leave room to believe God and to see his glory when we come to the end of ourselves and our own ability to control a situation?

God brings us to a point where we need him and him alone. God has never failed and God has never abandoned me. Moses could not solve the problem with the King of Egypt. The disciples had to set aside their own ambitions and be made ready for the resurrection and life that God had prepared for them.

When God calls will you follow him into the difficulty? Will you follow him into a life that is unpopular with the world? God will ask hard things of us so that He can be glorified and we can be amazed by him. My life has countless moments of amazement at Christ working out his glory to my encouragement. So be encouraged because when God’s glory is revealed all of the hardship faced in this life will be nothing compared to the joy of the presence of Jesus the King of Kings.

Exodus 3:14 | Authority Proven

Authority is an interesting concept. If I make truth claims about something then I must back up my claim by some kind of authority. For example, I could claim to be the best artist in the world. In order to prove that claim people would want to see my work. If I don’t have any works to show them then they may laugh and tell me I have no authority to make that claim. But if my art has been sold or used in some famous well known way then I might have some authority to make that claim. If I claim to be an authority on species of birds, I might be able to point to college degrees and past peer reviewed publications to back up my claim to authority. A fascinating down side to authority in our lawsuit crazed society is that if I put on a white coat, earn degrees, and then as a doctor someone gets hurt because I was wrong then my authority that was worked so hard for becomes a snare. For example this NBC News Report. In Italy there was an earthquake that killed hundreds. The experts on earthquakes made authoritative claims that the chance of an earthquake was low. Should these experts be held accountable for being wrong? Here is the main quote from the article.

“an Italian court convicted seven scientists and experts of manslaughter Monday for failing to adequately warn residents before a temblor struck central Italy in 2009 and killed more than 300 people.”

In the aftermath of the convictions other scientists resigned from disaster prediction boards and groups because they do not want to accept the downside of the authority they had claimed. And this is completely reasonable because they claimed an authority to predict earthquakes that is not yet settled. Scientists and “experts” go on broadcast media to make definitive claims that they can’t possibly know for sure all to puff up their credentials, egos, and wallets. I know it may seem shocking but a court finding them liable for not living up to those claims is a reasonable outcome if we accept that their authority is as definitive as they willingly lead the public to believe.

One of the most famous events of the Bible is the moment God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. God asks Moses to go to Egypt and free the Hebrew people. Moses rightfully objects because he has no authority with the Hebrew people. How will he as an outsider walk in and say to everyone come with me? How will he have any authority to speak to the king of Egypt and ask for the Hebrew people to be freed? It is an overwhelming and impossible task to ask of Moses.

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” Exodus 3:13 ESV

Moses asks God by what name will I come to them? By what authority will I go and make this revolution? Moses rightfully knows that this is not his ambition or his place. He will only be a messenger sent by God.

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14 ESV

There is no greater claim of authority ever in the history of the world than God’s response to Moses in this moment. God tells Moses to tell the people that “I AM” has sent him. God makes the claim that he exists.  God also tells us in this name that he has no beginning and that he is beyond the constraints of the start and end of time. What is more God then backs up his claim to being the ultimate authority by delivering the Hebrews out of Egypt through some of the most amazing miracles recorded in all of the Bible. 

19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. Exodus 3:19-20 ESV

God told Moses that he exists and God backed up his claim of authority by doing everything he told Moses that he would do to free the Hebrews. But this is not all, there is one more claim of authority that goes along with this burning bush event. Fast forward to the New Testament where the religious Hebrews constantly challenge Jesus because they did not want to accept the authority he claimed (and backed up through miracles). In one of the debates Jesus tells them that the father of faith and the father of all Hebrews Abraham looked forward to the time when God would send Jesus to save the world.

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:57-58 ESV

Jesus responds to their childish mockery by doubling down. Before Abraham was even born “I am!”. The parallel between God telling Moses that he is “I am” and Jesus now telling everyone that he is “I am” even before the birth of Abraham is a shocking claim of authority. Jesus is claiming to be the same God that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. If there are any doubts to the meaning of what Jesus said look at how the Jews respond to Jesus after he said this.

59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:59 ESV

Moses was called by God out of a burning push. God’s authority is unquestioned in freeing the Jewish people out of Egypt. Jesus calls out to you dear reader with an authority that no expert, no scientist, no guru, no crystal, and no medium can ever claim. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus came to die, to be buried, and to be resurrected so that God and his creation might be restored to fellowship. How will we respond to such an ultimate authority? Now is the time to trust and have faith in, Jesus, the authority that will never fail.

Exodus 3:4 | God Changes Outcomes

The family and the community we are raised in makes an impact on our world view and our outlook on life. Yet we could be raised in the most wonderful family and still grow to become a horrible person. Or we could be raised in a dysfunctional family and grow to become a wonderful person. Our past is not the final decider of our future. We are each unique individuals to God and when he speaks the real decider of our future is our willingness to listen and respond.

Moses was raised in the household of the king of Egypt and had every privilege in the world. But he knew and most likely everyone he was raised with knew he was not Egyptian. So, on one hand he was raised with the shrewd evil as a prince of Egypt and on the other hand he was also raised as an outsider which eventually lead to his desire to murder an Egyptian in order to help one of his own people. Because of this family dynamic it seems inevitable that his life would follow this path of murder against his own adopted family. And because of his arrogance he was found out and forced to flee Egypt.  

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Proverbs 16:2 ESV

Our actions are an overflow of what is in our hearts. Our actions are a reflection of our spiritual condition. If you constantly lie to get what you want then in your spirit you are an evil liar. If like Moses you harbor hate in your heart and it spills out into murder then you are an evil murder. Even if my hate has never spilled out into an action of murder that does not mean I am not a murder in my spirit. God knows the state of our spirit. Moses murdered for what was a noble reason in his own mind but it was out of hate and it was wrong.

After a lifetime on the run Moses who once had ambitions to rule like a king of Egypt has lived his life humbly in the wilderness tending flocks and raising a family. He is no longer the murder he once was. It is at this point that God weighs his spirit again. God makes the move to introduce himself to Moses completing the transformation from shrewd prince of Egypt to child and servant of the one true king.

4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Exodus 3:4 ESV

Moses was not ready early in life for what God planned for him. Moses would not have listened to any council from God. Murders never listen they charge forward in a pseudo-righteous anger living as they see fit. But now a life time removed from Egypt Moses is ready to not only hear from God but to recognize the authority of God.

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:6 ESV

We do not control how we are raised and how we are raised is not the final decider of how we live. Moses had to leave the privilege life of his youth and to live humbly in the wilderness. He had three options in this new life. First, he could have planned and plotted his return to power in Egypt. Murder would have only been the beginning of evil if he had lived this life. Second, he could have despaired all that he lost when he left Egypt. He could have become depressed to the point of uselessness. This too would have been an evil because being created in the image of God he has made us for so much more than despair. God made us to live and enjoy him. Finally, the path forward that Moses embraced was a quite life content with anonymity away from the riches and evil of Egypt. It is was from this place that God was able to speak to Moses and he was able to respond “Here I am”.

The worst evil of all would have been if Moses had stayed in Egypt living a worldly life of riches and evil. That is the most fearful place I could imagine. Could anyone hear God speak in such a circumstance? Moses by God’s grace has been prepared for this moment to hear God clearly. And God clearly introduces himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What an amazing moment a lifetime in the making.

5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:5-6 ESV

Dear reader where is your life standing at this moment? Is God calling your name and would you dare turn aside from your current course to pause and hear what he has to say? When I was young God called my name and I was compelled to listen. I am so thankful for being in a place and in a moment where a response to God’s calling turned me away from a life of evil. Jesus is calling would you like Moses respond “Here I am”?

Luke 1:34 | Why a Virgin Birth?

Why is the virgin birth of Christ such an important doctrine for Christianity? The desire to question, ignore, and reject this doctrine as important is primarily due to a lack of understanding to the significance of the claim. A review the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will be informative when we see how each author approached the topic.

Both Matthew and Luke deal with the traditional birth narrative and they both explicitly tell the reader that Mary is a virgin at the birth and conception. It is clear from the text that the audience, the writer, Mary, and Joseph all understand that a virgin birth is not possible and would bring shame to the Mary and Joseph because people would not believe that Mary conceived by way of a supernatural act of God.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:30-34 ESV

Matthew quotes directly from Isaiah 7:14 about God’s promise of a virgin giving birth.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:22-25 ESV

A virgin birth as odd as that might seem is clearly there in those two gospels and everyone clearly understood what was meant by saying a virgin will give birth to a son. To help clear up the “why” we should look at this from God’s perspective. The answer can be found in the birth narratives of Mark and John because those two texts do not give the physical birth of a baby boy type of story. These two gospels provide the history of Jesus not from man’s perspective but from God our Creator’s perspective. These two Gospels highlight the other side of the story that God wants humanity to know about Jesus and these two narratives are the key to understanding the significance of the virgin birth.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11 ESV

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

Jesus in Matthew and Luke is a baby born from Mary. God through the Holy Spirit intervening in the curse that humanity lives under. Jesus in Mark and John is the son of God who existed as God from the very beginning.

Jesus is heir to God’s Kingdom and because of the virgin birth he does not have a biological birth father in the same way as the descendants of Adam (you and me). By not having a biological earthly father Jesus is able to break the curse of the sin nature.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV

Together these four gospels complete the truth of the origin of Jesus, Immanuel “God with us”, who is fully man and fully God. The virgin birth allows Jesus to be both man and God at the same time and furthers the claim that Jesus is God. Not just God, but also the Creator God. Without the virgin birth Jesus would not be God and could not have saved anyone from sin.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3 ESV

Revised and Edited Originally published to Human Effort Sept 2013

Genesis 26:22 | No More Time or Space

Getting married and having children is a very personal and individual choice. There is nothing wrong with having or not having kids or having only a couple vs a bunch. But there is a trend in society that would disagree with me and argues that having a large family or having any kids at all is wrong and immoral.

For the most part this trend is not a trend to have fewer children but it is a trend to not have any children at all. There are many reasons for this but my thought is that the underlying reason for not having children is because these young adults never grew up in the first place. They flock to the city and they want to have fun. Kids are inconvenient and expensive. Cities where all the fun happens are not kid friendly. Also, kids put a damper on trips around the world. How can one travel if there are kids to be cared for? Who wants that?

Of course, not having children would never be admitted to in such terms as I have described above and some reading this are offended at me for stating the choice in those terms. Therefore, we must have a better reason for not having children. The rationalization must be noble and moral sounding so as to provide cover for one’s own rebellion regarding not having children. When I was younger the reason to not have kids was that the world is evil and so it would be wrong to bring kids into a terrible society. This was a rare comment and few agreed. The current generations have a much more sophisticated line of thinking. Here it goes… The world is going to end due to climate change so it would be a terrible idea to bring kids into this world but it would also be immoral since these same kids would add to the death of the planet. If this rationalization sounds preposterous then take a second look at just how mainstream the idea has become as found here in the New York Times or the virtue signal given off by the royal couple Harry and Megan when they announced that they will self-limit to just two children for the climate’s sake.

22 And [Isaac] moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” Genesis 26:22 ESV

In the Bible we never see such an idea so let me start with Isaac. He had run into an issue. His household and flocks had been blessed by God so much that everyone around him was terrified at the wealth and power that he had accumulated. His neighbors were filling up his watering holes with dirt and were fighting with him over every spot he tried to dig a new well. So, Isaac kept moving until he reached a place that was not claimed by anyone else. He named this spot Rehoboth which means wide spaces and he gave God credit for the location and the blessings of the future growth into this Rehoboth. This is the biblical view of life. God wants for people to grow and expand filling the earth.

When God created Adam and Eve he gave them a command to multiply.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 ESV

When God released Noah from the Arc to walk on the earth after the flood God gave Noah the same command to multiply.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 9:1 ESV

That command to multiply has not been rescinded and the earth, God’s amazing creation, is not yet at capacity. There are many blessings given by God around having children and growing families. I am not a person with a large family and I am not advocating if one does not have a large family that they have failed at something. However I also agree with the joke/saying “I never met anyone on their death bed that said they wished they had less children.”

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! Psalms 127:3-4 MSG

This is the order of things that God has put in place. He made us to multiply and only in our rebellion from him would we embrace an idea to kill babies in the womb or better yet to avoid having them at all. So let me come back to the argument at hand. Should we stop having children because the world going to end because of our presence?

First we can all agree that the world is going to end. This world is temporary. The earth will not last forever and it is in a state of decay. This is because God cursed creation as a result of sin. He did this in order to recreate and restore the heavens and the earth in perfect glory. Second God’s plans and his timing are unknown to us. Our contribution to the end of the planet is only impacted by prayer and waiting on God for his return. God is in control. People having babies or not having babies is not going to leave change God’s timeline.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV

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 21:11 | Displeasing Choices

Christianity is “sold” as something that will make one happy. So, what happens when that bill of goods turns out to cause conflict and places you in a no-win situation? An interesting situation just like that happened to a women’s soccer star who choose to withdraw from playing on the women’s national team rather than play in a game that required her to wear a Pride teamed jersey. Being invited to play on the national team was probably a dream come true. In a personal social media post, she says she prayed about the choice for 3 days and then walked away from playing on the national team. While being a christian means we must love everyone she felt conflicted that wearing a jersey like this crossed a line. While it is possible to love others one may not always agree with she also did not feel it was her duty, that the national women’s soccer team was asking of her, to celebrate everything that the pride flag represents. So, what happens when trying to live for Christ is crushing and displeasing. What happens when choices are presented that will not make one happy as a Christian?

Abraham, the father of faith, faced a terrible choice that made him very unhappy. Following what God wanted caused him untold loss and grief. Abraham had a son with his wife’s slave. I know this statement sounds terrible to our modern ears and even in this time thousands of years ago what Abraham did to have this son was not right before God yet the reality is that he has a son by this woman who is not his wife. When his wife Sarah has her own son she instantly becomes jealous and protective of this newborn over the son of her servant. Sarah’s motivation is selfish but she is not wrong. Human nature being what it is these two sons would eventually be at odds over who would be an heir to the promises of God and the wealth of Abraham’s household. Sarah demanded that Abraham send his other son away to prevent this future conflict.  

11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. Genesis 21:11 ESV

Abraham was not happy about what his wife is demanding. I have no doubt that he was proud of his first son and loved him. How could he not. God delivers bad news to Abraham…

12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. Genesis 21:12 ESV

There is no way this made him “happy” like what is sold to some about Christ. Just choose Jesus he will make your life better is not always true. Choosing Jesus will make life harder for some. This soccer player must have felt like she was in a situation that had only unhappy choices. Peace in her spirit by choosing Jesus or sadness to let her dream to play on the national team go. Not to mention the grief she will receive from her teammates and the public at large. But that is nothing compared to a business executive living in a culture of bribes to get things done becomes a follower of Christ and looses out on all business because the executive is convicted by God about the sinful nature of bribes. Worse yet what about those Christians who were killed in front of cameras by ISIS? Renounce Jesus or choose death. That is a very displeasing choice.

23 And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? Luke 9:23-25 ESV

Abraham could have rejected God’s direction to send the boy away. It was a no-win situation for Abraham. He would not have any part in his own son’s life. The wounds might never heal. But he denied himself and gained life for all of us today. Through Sarah’s son the second born to Abraham is a family that leads to birth of Jesus. From even this moment God was directing history to save humanity from our sins. Today each of us has a chance to throw our broken lives at the mercy of God and gain not this world and the success of what the world values but gain life in eternity with God the maker of heaven and earth. God tells Abraham as well as us today “Be not displeased” at the tuff choices or the self-denial for through me you will be saved. When this short life ends those in Christ will live for eternity with God in heaven.