Friday, July 31, 2015

All Things New: Jacob, the 'Run-for-your-life' Road, Part 1

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Jacob has been painted all kinds of ugly by various folks down through the years...a schemer, a deceiver,  a liar...and, while he may have been all those things at some point, I think he was also someone who placed great value on the inheritance God decreed for the family of Abraham.  He understood it in a different way than his brother.

As the Bible clearly tells us he was his mother's favored son, I don't think there's any chance that Jacob would have grown to adulthood without hearing the story of her prophecy...that  he would be the one who would inherit.  He'd grown up with an eye to the day that he would be in the place of heir, and he had taken pains to learn to manage his inheritance.  But he had no idea how  El Shaddai would bring that reversal to pass.

Rebekah may have also shared that prophecy with Isaac...but I don't think Esau  knew.  He was entirely too willing to give his birthright over to have been worried that Jacob was manipulating him to fulfill a prophecy.  But once his appetite was satisfied, he regretted what he'd done.  He even went so far as to alter his memory of the event from his willingness to part with it in exchange for a meal to 'He took away my birthright!' Whatever relationship the brothers had before that fateful bowl of lentils was consumed, it had to have been strained and suspicious thereafter.

What Esau gave away that day was his place as firstborn...and all the rights pertaining to that.  It included the lion's share of the inheritance, sure, but part of the right of the firstborn was the patriarchal blessing.  Esau separated the two, but the truth is that, being granted the first, Jacob had the right to the second.

And maybe Esau knew that, deep down.  The passing of the blessing was a ceremony of sorts, a big deal.  This 'big deal,' however,  was the object of a scheme to pass it along on the down low, in private, apart from the knowledge of the rest of the household.  It was pure chance...or was it?...that Rebekah overheard Isaac's instructions to Esau and hurried to Jacob, forming her own scheme to counteract her husband's.

Jacob rather reluctantly followed his mother's instruction, even to the point of putting on his brother's smelly clothes. Isaac knew his voice, but, convinced by the costume and the smell, he gave the blessing to Jacob.  Who therefore, by subterfuge, obtained that which he had been promised.

Now the relationship with his brother had passed beyond strained; Esau told himself  he would kill Jacob after his father had gone to his reward.  Of course, he couldn't know at that point that Isaac still had years and years of life left...and Rebekah could not know that Isaac would outlive her.  But someone reported Esau's words to her and, once again, she came up with a plan to thwart her elder son.  Genesis 26:35 states that Esau's Hittite wives 'made life bitter  for Isaac and Rebekah', so her request that Isaac send Jacob back to get a bride from her brother's household was reasonable.  Rebekah simply told Jacob to stay with his uncle until it was safe to return; she would send for him once Esau had gotten over his anger.

She'd hardly finished speaking when Isaac called for Jacob and instructed him to go to Paddan-aram and marry one of Laban's daughters.

Now, Jacob had the blessing and directive of his father to go on the journey, but he apparently took no time to make any preparations.  With all of the family's resources at his disposal, he left with little more than the clothes he wore.  Which can only be on account of his concern that Esau would hear he was leaving and kill him before he could get down the road.  He literally ran for his life, trying to put as much space between him and his brother as he could as fast as he could do it.

The Biblical narrative does not give much time frame for this; it could have all happened in the same day, or it could've been spread out over a few days.  Either way, though, Jacob's life had changed in short order...from being the son of the patriarch and living with the relative comfort of his family's prosperity to being a man on the run with a death threat hanging over his head.   There's no mention of a camel or other beast...he could easily have been on foot. He traveled until it was dark and he could no longer put one foot in front of the other...and he put his head on a rock and went to sleep.

The dream he had was more vivid than any he had ever had.  Angels going up and down a ladder that reached over his head...and at the top stood One he could never describe.  The words burned into his consciousness so that he remembered them in detail even after he was awake and alert...I am the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.  The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.  Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.  For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.   (Gen. 28:13a-15, ESV)

Jacob knew his family history; he knew that was the promise that had been given to his grandfather Abraham and to his father Isaac...and now, the birthright was manifesting: God's presence was promised to him.

This was no longer his mother's it was his.   God Himself had spoken to Jacob.   He had a revelation that would carry him through all the days of his life...surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.  

In the morning, he took the stone on which he'd put his head and placed it just so on a distinct spot he could specifically remember as a memorial, and he poured some of the little bit of oil he had on it and made a promise of his own.   

If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear so that I come again to my  father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house.  And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.   (Genesis 28:20-22)

Jacob had, overnight, gone from a man running from his brother's murderous threats to a man moving into a promise.  His life had changed forever; he would never see his mother again.  But he left that place knowing that God was with him and would bring him back.

In what circumstances of my life have I recognized the presence of God only AFTER the fact?  How has God demonstrated that He is with me, and that He is the One who is working 'all things together for good'?

Friday, July 24, 2015

All Things New: Esau, the Road out of Regret

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi 

(All scripture today from the NASB)

Rebekah had had the prophecy that her twins were both fathers of nations, but that the younger would surpass the elder.

We don't know much about the boys as they grew, other than Esau loved being outside and Jacob was content to hang around the tents.

Genesis 25:28 states that Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
I wonder, myself, if Jacob was sickly as a child, while Esau grew fast and strong.  That would have resulted in Jacob being kept around his mother while Esau hung with Isaac.  Not to mention that Esau's skill in hunting kept Isaac's tummy happy.  Rebekah, for all that she had left the household of intrigue when she was young, still had old habits and old expectations and old patterns in her life.  And she had Jacob's ear...he learned much from his mother.   Not the least, apparently, was the prophecy that he would rule over his elder brother.

Esau had no such instruction.  He was the firstborn; he had no need of intrigue or even of much thinking.  All he saw was his by right and nature, why should he worry about it?   He was favored by his father.

So, when he returned from a long and fruitless hunting trek,  he let his appetite override his judgement and he swore an unfortunate oath to give Jacob his rights.  I have a hard time believing that he actually thought he was on the verge of dying and could not make it the last few paces to the tents where there was food; maybe he thought Jacob was kidding, maybe he thought his words would not cancel what was his by virtue of who he was.

But the oath was sworn, and Jacob and God both heard it.  And, although he likely tried earnestly to convince himself that  it didn't matter, it didn't change anything, deep in his heart Esau had to know that something had shifted and a line had been crossed. He knew Jacob had to have told their mother.

As the years passed and nothing seemed to change, Esau gradually began to hope that it really didn't matter what he said that day.  He married two local women,  asserting his choices over his mother's disapproval.  Jacob had no bride...and the inheritance would never pass to one who had no offspring.

He may actually have thought he'd gotten out from under the oath the day that Isaac, old and blind with cataracts, called him privately to his side and asked him to go out hunting.  Isaac wanted to eat Esau's special wild game dish one last time, 'So I can bless you before I die,'  Isaac instructed.    Esau grabbed his gear quickly and left without speaking to anyone; his father's blessing would go far to help him lay claim to the inheritance portion due the eldest.  He didn't stop to think that that blessing was also included in the rights of the firstborn he had traded away so long ago.

Unlike that fateful day, he had a successful hunt.  He took his prize back to the settlement, but he did not go to the cooking tents as he still wanted his actions to go unnoticed by the rest of the household.  He stopped just outside the tents and built a fire and prepared his catch as his mother had taught him...exactly how Isaac liked it best.

To all appearances, he had succeeded in his plan to fulfill Isaac's wish and receive the blessing before the rest of the household knew what was going on.  He put the game on a platter and went to Isaac's tent.  'Let my father arise and eat of the food your son has prepared!  I'm here to receive your blessing!'

But Isaac did not smile and welcome him as he expected.  Instead, Isaac turned his sightless eyes toward him.  'Who are you?'  he asked.

Esau faltered a bit. 'I am your son...your firstborn...Esau.'

The old man began to tremble. 'Who was it then, who hunted game and brought it to me so that I ate all of it?  Before you came?  I blessed him...he's the one who will be blessed!'

I'm not sure what Esau did with the platter of food.  He may have dropped it in sudden shock, or he may have turned and set it down as the finality of that statement registered with him.  Genesis 27:34 states that when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry...  all his stealth and care had not changed anything.  The blessing due the heir had gone to Jacob.

I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him.   (Gen 27:40)

Bitter news indeed for Esau.  What he had given away in a careless moment had just been confirmed to his brother.  The best Isaac could prophesy for him was when you become will break his yoke from your neck.

Esau took that to heart, and determined that he'd set the terms of that himself by killing Jacob once Isaac had passed away.  But, to his consternation, Isaac called Jacob to him, and blessed him and sent him back to Rebekah's family to find a wife.

Jacob was out of reach.

 At first, Esau expected his brother to return home soon, with a favored wife from the family,  to supplant him.  He attempted to head that off by marrying a third wife, one of Ishmael's daughters, to try and please his parents as well.

But first one year passed, and then two, and then several.  Esau had sons, acquired livestock.  Although he kept an eye on the road to Padan-aram, Jacob did not appear.  Rebekah died and was buried, Isaac grew old and feeble.   But Isaac's servants cared for him and his property; Esau  realized that, as he no longer had the rights of the firstborn, he also did not have the responsibilities. He had wealth, he had sons, he had everything he needed.  At some point, Esau decided to move his family to Seir.

 No longer was he waiting for his brother to return home so they could have the show-down. He did not need to reclaim the birthright...he had built his own.

He had broken Jacob's yoke from his neck.

The dates in the Biblical narrative are rather imprecise, but we can pretty well approximate that it was at least 20 years before Esau and Jacob saw each other again. Esau heard Jacob was returning home, with what sounded like an army from the rumors he'd heard, so he saddled up and took his servants with him to meet Jacob and find out if he intended to try and take from him what was his.

Instead, he was met with wave after wave of generous gifts.  He was not surprised that Jacob declined his offer to escort the nomads to Seir...they had no part in it and no real reason to go.  But he had made the offer and met the standards of etiquette.  He turned his back to Jacob, and did not fear his retribution.  They were reconciled enough to give Isaac proper burial when he died, and they recognized that they could not live close together because God had blessed them both to the point that the land could not sustain both of them.  Esau took his leave and settled permanently in the land that later took on his nickname...Edom.

A bad choice can lead to difficult, disappointing and irreversible consequences.  But at the point at which we stop blaming others for the consequences of our own actions, God can bless us and begin the process of restoration.

In what area of my life am I refusing to acknowledge my own responsibility for the consequences I am experiencing?  How can I confess and repent of my own bad choices/wrong actions so that God can take what I have and turn it around for His glory?  What is the first step I need to take to move past blame into reconciliation?

Friday, July 17, 2015

All Things New: Rebekah, The 'Leap of Faith' Road

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Then they said, "Let's call the girl and ask her about it."  So they called Rebekah and asked her, "Will you go with this man?"

"I will go," she said.   -- Gen 24:57-58, NIV84

Years passed; Isaac grew to manhood, Sarah died and was buried.  And Abraham, feeling his age, called his chief servant in with a request.  Isaac should not marry any of the women of the nations around them, he said.  Isaac should marry a woman of Abraham's clan...someone who would share his heritage and who would not bring strange gods into the household.   So Abraham sent his most trusted servant back to the land he seek out a bride for his son.

We know his side of the story well; how he came to the place and asked God for a specific sign to show him the woman God had chosen for Isaac's wife...and how quickly a beautiful young lady appeared who fulfilled the sign to the letter and turned out to be Abraham's great niece, the daughter of his brother Nahor's son, Bethuel.

We know very little else about this remarkable young lady at this point.

But we know something of her family.

Her grandfather, Abraham's brother, had died.  Bethuel was now the head of the least, in name.  But Rebekah's brother Laban was the one who greeted Abraham's servant and gave orders regarding him.  It was Rebekah's mother and Laban who attempted to set the terms for Rebekah's journey.  This makes me wonder how much actual influence Bethuel had in his own household.

And we know from later dealings with Laban that he was not a man of integrity.

So...what was life like for Rebekah, living in that household?  With maidservants of her own, she still went to the spring to draw water.  Was that an indication of her servant's heart...or her opportunity to get out of the house and away from an atmosphere that was oppressive to her?  Or was it just an unusual set of circumstances that had her making the trip for water that particular night?  Or all three in combination?

That night started out no different than any other night when she would draw water...she took her jar down to the spring, with the sun slanting low in the west.  She was a little surprised to see a travel-worn man near the spring, with ten camels kneeling nearby with servants attending them. But the man said nothing, and it was not proper for her to ask a stranger about his business, so she continued to the spring and filled her jar, as always.  But when she turned and headed back with it, the man stopped her and asked for a drink of water.  As she was apparently the first young lady to come and get water that night, that may not have seemed odd to her.   He had nothing to use to draw water, and he was thirsty.  And there were all those camels...

Again, what prompted Rebekah to offer to water the camels?  Her servant's heart?  Her interest in a legitimate excuse to stay away from her family?  Or maybe her curiosity...perhaps she could learn the stranger's purpose if she watered his camels.  He appeared to be a wealthy man. She didn't even hesitate, once the idea occurred to her.

She carried jar after jar to the animal trough to water those camels.  Camels can go for weeks without drinking, but when they have water available, they drink...and drink...and drink...and drink...and drink.  She kept filling the trough until the last camel turned away.

The man then pulled out a gold nose ring of impressive size and two hefty gold bracelets and offered them to her...and asked whose daughter she was, and if there would be room for him and his attendants to spend the night. She was impressed...if the jewelry was his appreciation for watering the camels, he was a man of honor and significance.  She told him she was Nahor's granddaughter, and welcomed him on behalf of her family.

Then the man surprised her...he bowed to the ground and worshiped God, thanking Him for bringing him straight to his intended destination.

God led him here?  That was...different.  Rebekah hurried to her mother and told her what had happened.  Laban, who was standing there, saw the jewelry and the moment he'd heard enough to find the man, took off for the spring.  "I have prepared  the house and a place for the camels" could hardly have been exactly true...there had been no time...but unexpected guests were the only kind of guests in those days, so there were things that were just always ready.

The camels were bedded down, the travelers all had footbaths, and food was brought for them.  But the servant waved it off.  "I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say."

Now they were down to business.  "Then tell us"...every translation I have handy at the moment attributes that statement to Laban, but every one has it marked that that is the implication, as Laban has clearly been playing the role of host up to that moment.  But the entire household...including Bethuel, as we see in verse 50...had assembled to learn what had brought this man to their doorstep.

Now, consider.  It had been close to sundown when Rebekah went to the well.  She watered all the camels, then returned.  Laban had gone down to the well, and all the servants and camels were brought back to the compound and were fed and bedded down.  Then the men were welcomed and food prepared.

It was getting late in the evening when he began his story.

None of them there would remember Abraham, unless there were very old servants around.  Bethuel was not yet born when Abram left Haran, but news had traveled around somewhat.  They may or may not have known of Isaac,  they may or may not have known about Abraham's wealth.  But the servant had come with camels and servants and the gold jewelry that Rebekah was now wearing and it was all proven.

The servant's story was impressive...that he and Abraham agreed that there was one woman he was to seek, and she would have the power to choose to come or not come.  He was not obligated to find another if that woman declined the journey.  He related how he had asked God to show him that specific woman...and that Rebekah had precisely fulfilled that description.

Laban and Bethuel looked at each other, amazed, and replied,

This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other.  Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has directed.'

But one asked Rebekah.  Her father and her brother agreed that if this was God's doing, they had no business having an opinion.  I wonder what Rebekah thought as she returned to her place, took off the jewelry and settled down to sleep.  I rather suspect it all seemed rather dream-like and unreal.  Was she excited?  Disappointed that she wasn't going to marry some young man that she'd had her eye on?  Or maybe the person who'd made inquiries about marrying her wasn't young and handsome but a local middle-aged landowner who was interested in adding her to his harem in order to make an alliance with her father?

Maybe she was seeing a way out of something that was becoming intolerable.

Or, maybe for the first time in her life, she was seeing herself as significant to God.  He had, after all, led the servant straight to her.

The next morning, Abraham's servant got up and asked for permission to leave with Rebekah that very day.

Rebekah's mother and Laban balked.  Ten days, they said.  'Let her stay home with us for ten days or so, then we'll let her go.'

But he was insistent.  He had obtained his objective; his master was waiting to see if he was successful.  There was no reason to delay his return.

Then...Rebekah's family hit upon the idea of asking her.  I'm not sure what they expected her to say, but I'm convinced it wasn't what she said.  She'd had the night to imagine life differently than it ponder the idea that God had a destiny for her unlike any she had considered.  So when they asked her, "Will you go with this man?"  she simultaneously took her future into her own hands and released it into God's when she surprised them by saying, "I will go."

The woman that the servant was seeking chose to return with him.

In less than 24 hours, she had changed from the daughter in a house of manipulation and tension to a bride on the way to her husband, whom she'd never met, in a land she did not know.  But she did know that God had selected her for that place...and it was her own choice to step into it.

And God, in His ways, put her in the arms of a man who loved her.

Are there areas in my life in which God is calling me to leave what is familar absolutely and without  hesitation?  Will I go where the Spirit calls, trusting Him? At once?  Today?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Late Again: SSMT Verse 14: Ps. 121:7 - 8

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Sigh.  SSMT Verse 15 was due yesterday...but Wednesdays are still crazy days, even without a class to teach at the moment.  So...glad we get a little grace. ;-)

The last two verses of the psalm:

The LORD will keep you from all harm -- he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.  Ps. 121: 7 - 8  NIV 84

I've enjoyed studying one passage for the last couple of months; this one has reminded me that, even though the world around us has been going crazy, God is steadfast.  He's got us covered in the midst of the insane and crazy.

Because He sees the end from the beginning and knows how it will all turn out.

Friday, July 10, 2015

All Things New: Sarah, the Unhoped-for Road, part 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

In my reader's mind, I see Abraham returning from the interaction with God recorded in Genesis 17 differently than any of the others.  God had renewed both the covenant and the promise, and he now understood that God was not finished with him yet; God had more in store for Abraham  than he had ever imagined.  Striding into the compound of tents, he calls for the men to assemble. 'Go find them!'  He instructs his household servants to collect the herdsmen from the pastures and the servants from the fields. 'I need every man and boy who belongs to me!'  Then he turns to find his wife.  He finds her in her place, tending to the business of the household.  There is something different in the way he looks at her, and she notices.  Something stirs in her spirit that had lain dead for years and years and years, something that brought a glimpse of youth and virility and desire that she had long forgotten.  He smiles and takes her face in his hands and says for her ears alone, 'Sarai -- the Lord says you are Sarah, His princess, and you are part of His promise.'  In an American telling of the tale, there would be a passionate kiss at that point, but I think Abraham had other things on his mind at the moment and after sharing that tidbit gets to the business at hand. 'I need every knife we have...and I need them to be as sharp as we can get them as quickly as we can get them.  I have heard from El-Shaddai!'

Sarah would have heard the declaration before his assembled household...that God had changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai would now be Sarah;  the ordeal the men  and boys were about to undergo had been declared by God to distinguish Abraham and his descendants from all other people groups from that time on.

Who actually wielded those knives, what kind of pain relief or follow up care they would have had available to them is beyond my knowledge. The women of the household may actually have had very little involvement in the process...or they may have been holding hands, bringing towels, changing water, sharpening knives...who knows.  It had to have been a trying day for everyone.  But Abraham had God's promise, and he believed that God would do what he said; I rather believe there was a worship service going on the whole time.  It was a smaller scaled version of the event that confirmed the covenant for the whole nation hundreds of years later on the west bank of the Jordan River.

The covenant was in effect.  The promise was coming.  A nation  and a people to be God's own.

But at this point, Sarah was cleaning and cleaning and cleaning again.  And trying to get used to her new name.

I don't think Abraham had passed along the rest of the word concerning her.  For when Abraham's heavenly guests arrived shortly afterward, and Abraham was told once more, this time within Sarah's hearing, that Sarah would have a son within the next year, she thought it ridiculous and laughed to herself...a disillusioned, derisive laugh, I'm sure.   After all this time and disappointment and the conflicts they'd endured to see the promise come to, it couldn't be so.  

I think if Abraham had told her what God had said, Sarah would've received that as a confirmation and been amazed, perhaps; I don't think her reaction would've been to have scoffed at the news, even privately. But there, in the tent, out of sight and hearing of Abraham and his guests, Sarah heard that ludicrous statement and laughed.

And was terrified when she was called out on it.

Probably in her mind she didn't laugh...that is, she didn't consider that bitter chuckle to be laughter. Not really.  But the Lord not only called her out for laughing, but repeated her thoughts and answered them. 'Is anything too hard for the LORD? ...This time next year, you'll have a son.'

'No,' she insisted, 'I didn't laugh.  Really'

And he replied,  I would almost say tenderly, because here was a lady who had given up on God ever noticing her, 'Oh, yes, you did.'

Here was the paradigm shift for Sarah.  Abraham talked to God.  Hagar had a supernatural word.  But all Sarah had was Abraham's statement that God changed her name...and that was only recently.   But now...God asked for her by name, told her what she thought, answered the questions of her heart, and assured her that, even though she was afraid and disillusioned, her weaknesses were seen and yet did not disqualify her from the promise.

Everything new for Sarah came from that moment, when she could no longer consider herself someone who didn't matter.  God saw her.  He knew her.  And she was part of His plan.

Before God changes circumstances, He changes hearts.  The paradigm shift that needs to happen for so many is to believe that 'God sees and has a plan for ME'.  We find it's relatively easy to believe God speaks to others, acts on behalf of others, but when it comes to believing He would do the same for each of us, individually and personally...we struggle..  Believe we're invisible to Him, or disqualified in some way.  

But He asks for us by name, and will tell what we need to hear, if we will but listen.  He'll even deal with unbelief, if we will give Him the chance.  

What can I do to put myself in the place where I can hear Him call my name?  What question do I need to hear Him answer?  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Goin' Old Skool

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

For some strange reason, I had a hankerin' for some Old Skool Christian rock...and the likes of the Allies and Whiteheart are in the CD changer.

'Freedom' is probably one of my favorite discs ever.  Just sayin'.

Back in the day, I actually made an effort to do low-impact aerobics at the little church we were attending.  Sometimes I'd have 3 ladies come, sometimes it was just me and a friend.  Workin' up a sweat to pretty much the same playlist...on a cassette tape in  my boom box...every week.

Those songs will get IN your head when you do that.

To this day, I have a heard time not doing the knee-kick knee-kick routine to the title cut from that Freedom CD.

But as the songs have cycled through the disc changer, I've been hearing the lyrics again, fresh.

It's been a while.

break out of the dark land you live in
set the bridge on fire
cross over the deep troubled water
set the bridge on fire
stand up for the truth you believe in 
it is a higher power
strike back with the bright torch of freedom
set the bridge on fire....

('Set the Bridge on Fire' - Whiteheart, 'Freedom' - 1989)

And WAAAYYY before Elsa started throwing ice fractals around...

it's like after the storm
there's a ray of gold
that's how it feels 
to let it go
it's like heaven has come
and opened the gates of your soul
it's a journey back into innocence
you feel the touch of tenderness
your heart turns to gold
when you let it go
let it go

('Let It Go' - Whiteheart, 'Freedom' - 1989)

Yeah.  Sometimes it's good to go Old Skool.  Sometimes I need reminding.

Friday, July 3, 2015

All Things New: Sarah, the Unhoped-for Road, Part 1

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

In all of Abraham's story, Sarai/Sarah is a secondary character.

She left Haran with Abram, traipsed with him through Canaan to Egypt, where she went along with Abram's story that she was just his sister, which, according to Genesis 20:13, was the story they presented regularly.  She must have been incredibly beautiful; even as an elderly woman her beauty captured the eyes of foreign kings.  But it may have been more than just her beauty that caught their eye; in that time, alliances were often formed via marriage.  Kings married into each others' families  as a way to reinforce treaties and agreements...blood being thicker than ink and all.  So the kings who took Sarai/Sarah into their harems may not have been simply infatuated by her, although her beauty is mentioned as a factor,  but they may also have been making an alliance with Abram/Abraham.

By our standards, this is an outrageous situation, a great failure on Abram's/Abraham's part to protect and cover his wife.   How could he have trusted God so little here, when he trusted Him with so much elsewhere?  But Sarai/Sarah did not betray her husband. God stood guard over her and protected her and turned the situation around so that Abram/Abraham even gained wealth as a result of the whole deal.

She endured much for the sake of her husband.

And day he returned from a prayer retreat, dazzled.  He spoke of covenant and visions and smoking pots and God's promise that, even in his mid eighties, God was going to bless him and make him a father of a son.

Sarai, well past the age of childbearing herself, cannot have thought for even a moment that she would be the child's mother. She is not mentioned in Genesis 15.  What part did she have in Abram's promise...after all the years of moving around and presenting herself as his sister to make him less of a threat to those around them?  Would she have to send her husband to the bed of a second wife or concubine...or die altogether...for Abram to even have an opportunity to be a father?

How long did it take her to come to the conclusion that her only chance of having any part in the promise was to offer her maid Hagar as a surrogate mother?  How much did it cost her emotionally to go to her husband and say, 'Since God has prevented me from having children, I have a suggestion....'

Now, in that time, what she suggested was perfectly acceptable.  Common.  And, you know, Abram may not have agreed right away; the narrative does not include much of a time frame.  Eventually, however, he did.

There's no indication that they ever asked God for His direction in their planning.

I think she knew, when she first saw Hagar's smirk of superiority once her pregnancy was confirmed, that they'd made a mistake.   There was no joy in the family that the promise was manifesting.  Instead, petty jealousies and accusations began to multiply.  Hagar, who had to have been Sarai's closest companion and confidante, now despised Sarai.  Sarai blamed Abram.  Abram refused to act on behalf of his wife.  Sarai, no doubt feeling betrayed by her best friend, her husband and even her God, mistreated Hagar.  Hagar ran away.

You can tell the root of a thing by its fruit.    And this fruit was turning out to be both bitter and sour.

Hagar returned to Sarai, subdued for a time after her supernatural encounter, but the damage was done.  Whatever their relationship had been before, the trust was broken. They now were rivals.

You know, in a world of men, it had to be painful to Sarai to lose that relationship with her closest female companion. There is no enmity so bitter as that where true friendship has been broken.  And Hagar had both a son...Abram's joy and delight and, so far as they all understood, the promise fulfilled..and a supernatural visit from the angel of God.  Sarai...all Sarai had was the responsibility of running Abram's household.  She had no word from God, no assurance on any account that she was part of the promise.  All her attempts to be included had turned to ashes in her hands.  What hope did she have?  There was nothing left to hope for.

For thirteen years, Sarai lived with that.  Then Abram had another encounter with God.

There is no situation so bleak as the one taken at face value.  Even when there is no visible evidence of God's plan, His plan is still in place.  The promise is still coming.  God will not hold back what He  has spoken, even if we give up looking for it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SSMT Verse 13 - Ps. 121:5-6

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Insert expected exclamation of disbelief that it is July 1 already and time for the 13th Verse in the 2015 Siesta Scripture Memory Team assignment.  (BTW, Beth is teaching today on the blog on her chosen verse...Gal. 6:1.  Good stuff)

My journey through Psalms 121 brings me to verses 5 and 6:

The LORD watches over you -- The LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night.    -- Ps 121:5-6 NIV84

I've always thought this was kind of an interesting concept...of course, the sun has potential to cause harm...blistering sunburn, dehydration, heat stroke, etc.; in contrast, the moon itself is rather harmless.  I think the poetic language implies protection from the threat that comes under the cover of night. 

Because God is the shade; the One who stands between the threat and the threatened to protect, cover and shield.

Just the idea of being in the shade is restful and restorative. 

A good passage for July 1.