Dialogue – Genesis 15

And Abram’s reward for defeating the Four kings when he returned home? God visited him in a vision, not just with a proclamation, but with a dialogue.

God said: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance.”

I’m sure at this point “shield” takes on a more vivid meaning after the blood of the battle!

Abram replied: “O Sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus? Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!”

Translated: “Promises, promises – let’s see some action.” Abram is growing weary waiting, looking, anticipating in faith, for God to act. Do you ever feel that way?

God replied: “This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir.” 

God must have seen Abram’s continued skepticism as, “The Lord took him outside and said, ‘Gaze into the sky and count the stars—if you are able to count them! So will your descendants be.'”

Then, “Abram believed.” 

God goes on to give him more details about the promise after Abram believed, but first Abram needed a vision.

Sometimes all we need to obey is God clicking his fingers. We are ready and eager, filled with faith. We’ll pick up and go anywhere.

Sometimes, we are weary of the battle, the wanderings, seeing our own sin and the sin of others. We question, even doubt, the promise we so much wanted to believe in.

Dialogue is the basis for relationship. It’s the give and take. It’s the meeting in the middle. It’s the meeting of each other’s needs.

That’s when God, in his grace, dialogues with us. He woes us with his presence. He does not judge us for our limited faith, our doubts. Instead, he answers us with his truth, and leads us by the hand to remind us of his character. 

He fills our heart with vision.

Warning – Genesis 14

Poor Lot. He chooses what looks like the best land, with strong nations to protect him, and what happens? Four kings go to war again five other kings, including Sodom, and the four kings prevail, taking all the possessions of Sodom, including Lot and his family. 

I wonder if this was the first time Lot regretted his decision. I wonder what his thoughts were as he was being led away in chains, not sure where his wife or children were? Not sure of his fate?

But Abram “to the rescue” when he was told him of the defeat. He pulled together his little forces and friends, 318 trained men, against 4 kings! But he chased them and retrieved all the stolen property, including Lot and his family.

Can’t you just picture the scene? All the confusion Lot heard and witnessed as his capturers fled. Then he sees a familiar face! The reunion and finding his wife and daughters. A triumphant march towards home, next to his uncle, telling others, “This is my Uncle!” The king of Salem greeting them, blessing Abram and praising him. Then on to Sodom and a very different response, when the King of Sodom greets them with a demand for his people and possessions.  You would have thought this would have given Lot a pause about his choices.

But it apparently did not. Lot went back to Sodom, to the King of Sodom, to everything he knew there. I don’t know if he was stubborn, stubborn like me when I don’t want to admit things aren’t going as well as I would like them to. I don’t know if he was already intrigued with the relationships and lifestyle he had there. All I know is that he went to Sodom, even after this warning.

What more would it take?

Worship – Genesis 13

So after his failure in Egypt, God still provided for him, and… 
He returned to the place where he had pitched his tent 
at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai.
This was the place where he had first built the altar,
and there Abram worshiped the Lord.

I really appreciate that Abram went back to where he had known God, where God has spoken to him, where he had worshipped him. Unlike Adam who hid after his sin, when Abram was confronted, he moved towards God. That’s a great lesson to me – that no matter how humbled I am, how ashamed I may feel, I can approach God by going back to him and recapture relationship.

But there were still problems. Abram, now reconnected with God in worship, realized continuing with Lot was problematic. While he was the elder with all the power, he humbled himself and gave Lot first choice of the land. Lot looked over the land and took what he thought was best for himself.

But God’s ways are not our ways, and Lot overlooked the power of sin which would someday undo his family and fortune. 

Abram was the peacemaker in this situation, giving of himself and his desires for the free choice of another. Right or wrong, he let Lot make his own decision.

Abram’s reward was God reaffirming his covenant with him, giving him and generations to come the land: Get up and walk throughout the land, for I will give it to you.”

And, Abram’s response once again, was to worship God: “So Abram moved his tents and went to live by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron, and he built an altar to the Lord there.” (remember this location…it will comeback again!)

When we make bad decisions, its a reason to worship. And when we make good decisions, that’s a reason to worship. 

There is always a reason to worship. 

Abram – Genesis 12

The end of chapter 11 connects us to the next story, of Abram. It tells us of a tight knit family who was moving from one place to another.  But instead of being a continuation of a hard, cold genealogy, it rests for a moment on the loss of a son who “died in the presence of his father,” a tender, personal moment. It also lists the names of wives, recognizing their importance to the family unit. And it even mentions Sarai’s barrenness, a failure that must have struck to the core of who she and Abram were in the midst of the command to “multiply.” And it ends with a father’s death.

The story of Abram picks up quickly in chapter 12 with God’s call to Abram, but it is in the context of this tight family this covenant is made. Something had to be special about Abram we are not privy to, for God to pick him out all those on the earth at this time. It doesn’t talk about Abram’s worthiness or walk with God like it did with Noah. But something here drew God’s heart towards Abram.

Maybe it was the way he and Sarai were trusting him to have children. Maybe it was the way he honored his father and learned leadership from him. We know when Abram (Abraham) was looking for a mate for his son, he went back to where the rest of his clan was living giving us the idea that they as a knew and worshipped God. Whatever the reason, by God’s grace, he picked Abram. 

And maybe it was because, like Noah, God knew Abram would make the choice to be obedient. It feels as if almost immediately Abram left his father’s burial place and relatives and obeyed God. God showed him the promised land. There Abram built altars and worshipped.

But Abram was far from perfect, and didn’t always make the choice to not sin. In a jam, in the midst of famine, he lied and let Pharaoh take Sarai into his house to have sexual relations. But God, in his love, grace, and mercy, didn’t let Abram get away with it and reviled to Pharaoh. 

God kept Abram from sinning. He kept Sarai’s womb and his promise pure.

Sometimes I wonder when God has corrected me in the midst of sin, how maybe he is saving me from it being so much worse. God hasn’t made me promises about my life or generations to come, but from turning me around from a wrong direction I was going, was he really saving me from things so much worse?

I’m glad Abram wasn’t perfect, or I wouldn’t be able to relate to him. But he’s like me – he made good, faith-filled choices, and he made terrible, fearful choices.

In all his choices, God was with him, patiently leading him in the direction God knew would get him to the desires of his heart.

Separation of the Nations – Genesis 11

It’s interesting that in chapter 10, in describing the descendants of Noah and their nations, it also mentions several times, “These are the sons of _____, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, according to their nations.”

And yet, in the sequence of the story, we have not gotten to the creation of languages or nations! So, Genesis 11 is almost like a, “let me catch you up on how that happened while we were growing families…”

Thus, the story of the tower of Babel.

I’m not going to tell it again, except to think about the power of language, of communication, of understanding people. When man had a common language, he felt he powerful enough to reach to the heavens. It seemed like the only person he strove against was God, wanting to be a God. 

With Babel, there entered a world of confusion. Can you imagine being “on the job” and all of a sudden, the man you handed the brick to doesn’t know where you wanted it placed? And when he asks you about it, you can’t understand him? I don’t know, maybe he gets mad and throws the brick at you?

All we know is that this caused the separation of nations. Evidently, people from one family could still understand each other. And in their confusion, probably got closer to each other because no one else could understand them. And, instead of staying in one place and trying to figure it out, they moved farer from others, forming their own culture.

The issue is that there is still sin, very active in the world. It would be one thing to be your own nation, people group, but when one nation or people group starts to think they are better than another, that spirit of competition that can turn so easily into sin.

Misunderstandings turn into who is right and who is wrong, which turn into who is better or more powerful. Now, we enter into an atmosphere for war, cultures dominating others for their own gain.

It’s still true today. Individuals want to feel good about themselves, so they overpower others. Nations and leaders don’t want to be “less than,” so they assert themselves to be bigger and better. Cultures and languages hinder communication, until we sit in the mess of our own sin.

Maybe this is why God allowed Babel and the creation of nations – so that we could see the devastation that comes out of our choices, our selfish choices, our ambition, to lord over others. It makes me wish for the redemption that will come with Christ, when we will be one nation again, when every tear will be wiped dry.

No more misunderstandings…

Obedience – Genesis 10

And out of these
the nations were separated
on the earth after the flood.

Chapters like this can be hard to read as they are lists of names that are all foreign to us. Sometimes we get a little glimpse into a personal story, like Nimrod being a “hunter,” but other times, it can be bewildering to us, like what’s written for Peleg “for in his days the earth was divided” – I don’t have a clue what that would mean!

What I do get from it is that Noah and his family were obedient to “As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” They had many children that became nations that eventually had their own languages and identities.

It makes me pause and think about what God has called me to and am I being obedient? I think mankind has done a fine job populating the earth, and I don’t think we need any more nations, except to continue to build the nation of God, the followers of Jesus, who come from every nation and tribe. How am I doing on that one? What have I been doing within my own family, teaching them to trust the Lord under all circumstances? What am I doing to encourage friends in their faith?

In this time of Covid, that is a harder question to answer. It’s easier to focus on being “safe,” not coming into contact with others. There are still ways to contribute, financially or over zoom, but it takes more effort. I’ve found I have to continually ask myself, what is the Lord asking of me today? Sometimes, it is just to be “safe” and encourage others to be “safe,” but others times it is to reach out and to challenge others to faith.

What does obedience look like for you?

New and Old – Genesis 9

For in the image of God He made man.
As for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”

Noah was spared, but God determined that things would be different. Mankind would be the same, and he reminds us that we are created in the image of God, and our purpose would be the same, to be fruitful and multiply.

This is the sign of the covenant
which I have established between Me
and all flesh that is on the earth.”

The creation of the rainbow was the sign of the first covenant between God and mankind. He would never destroy the earth through flood again. Can you imagine their wonder as they saw the first rainbow – it’s brilliant color floating above the earth, so real but so imagined? Roger and I still pull off the road when we see a beautiful rainbow, amazed at this floating, ethereal creation.

But then, by the end of the chapter, we’re back to the old: sin. It doesn’t seem like much, giggling about someone’s nakedness, especially after the sin of the culture that drowned a generation before. But that’s how sin starts, a giggle here and a selfishness there. It was enough to get God’s immediate attention. Noah knew his children needed to be reprimanded and took the lead of a father in disciplining his children. 

Noah knew how devasting sin could be, and how he never wanted anyone to go through judgement again.

Nor should we.

So Noah Went Out – Genesis 8

So Noah went out, and his sons
and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.
Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird,
everything that moves on the earth,
went out by their families from the ark.

Staying with our visualization of Noah going into the ark and waters rising, let’s think for a minute about how it would feel being in the ark, if after more than a month of rain, it suddenly stopped (or slowly tapered off). The silence would be almost deafening, except for the lowing of the cattle and an occasional roar from a lion. What would happen next?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m floating, I don’t know how deep the water is under me. It was probably a blessing for them to not know how deep the waters were.  They continued to float, day after day, until they heard that creaking sound again, as the ark groaned as it rested on land. 

My guess is that they opened the window as soon as they could, at least I would have! What they saw was tops of mountains. This would probably be their first realization of how high the waters had actually gotten. I’m sure they searched the ridge for landmarks on the mountains, to let them know where they were.

We’re not told that God told Noah to send out the raven or dove. Noah must have had the sense to know what to do to see what the conditions were around him. Patient with the process, he continued to send out birds, until God told him that he had brought him to safety.

And then, Noah worshipped God, and I’m sure that was quite the worship service! God had brought him through the worst disaster the world has ever known. It was by God’s grace Noah and his family were spared.

It’s by God’s grace, we are spared.

Floating – Genesis 7

The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth,
and the ark floated on the surface of the water.

We don’t know a lot that goes around this story and about this time in history. We don’t know if there was ever a boat before now or if Noah had any experience with oceans or seas. Building this huge structure in the middle of land must have seemed peculiar to those around him, and yet Noah himself must have been peculiar as someone who was separate, not participating in the sin around him.

And then there was the parade of animals walking up and getting into the boat. I wondered what those who saw it thought…was the Noah the “animal whisperer.”

We have no record that Noah shared his conversations with God or called those around him to repentance. I think God’s decision was already made. I think those who were sinning had made their decisions.

And then the rains came.

And the ark “floated.” I try to visualize those moments inside the ark, the door closed, the sound of rain. The ark creaks as the water rises, maybe swaying a little side to side as water gathers on one side and then goes to the other. I picture Noah and his family, waiting, listening, hoping…a little fearful and a little amazed.

And then the feeling of floating…no longer connected to the earth, rising above all that they knew, what had always been a firm foundation to them. There was no anchor, holding them steady. If there were winds, there may have been a sense of movement, going with the current, and yet no ability to see.

Floating on God’s grace.

I can’t help but relate it to my life, the times when I’ve lost the security of what I have known, when all I could do was trust Jesus. I knew I had been obedient, had made preparations in my heart and life for what was coming. And yet in those moments of letting go and letting God take over, I heard my own creaks and moans as I left the realities of the world for the realities of his grace. I was lifted up and all I could do was rest, floating, abandoned to his will. 

It hasn’t happened often in my life, but it is so like Noah’s experience. We do need to prepare ourselves spiritually for what is to come, as much as God reveals it to us. But there is a point in which we rest in him and the hope of his salvation.

One Man’s Choice – Genesis 6

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Again, don’t you wish you could see this all as a movie, experiencing what the relationship was like between Noah and God? There must have been a very strong contrast between Noah and the world he lived in. How did he navigate it?

We do know that God felt Noah could be his confidant, his partner in finding a solution against the sin of man. God shared with Noah his emotions and the details of the destruction. He also shared with him a plan of salvation. 

God always has a plan of salvation. Even though there have been consequences for choices, there has always been a plan for salvation. Adam and Eve, although expelled from the garden, were provided for. Cain, with blood on his hands, was allowed to live. Enoch was snatched into heaven. God is just, and he only gives consequences in line with choices. He is also merciful and has a plan of salvation.

Noah had made good choices, before the moment of crisis came. Daily he had refused to walk and talk with those who were moving away from God. And thus he found favor with God.

No only did God want to save Noah, but he wanted to save those Noah was in relationship with. Our relationship with God does affect those around us. And, God knows it’s not good to leave us alone, without “helpers.”

Noah continued to make good choices, building a boat with no water around. His faith was based not on what he could see for himself, but what he could see through eyes of faith and relationship with God. He might not have understood it all, but it didn’t make a difference. His God was telling him to do something…and “he did ALL that God commanded him. “

Noah chose to follow God.