1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
2 And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
A famine occurred, much as it did for Abraham. Isaac had to set out from his home, much as did Abraham. He was led to the land of the Philistines, much as was Abraham. And along his way God promised him innumerable descendants and a great land for an inheritance, much as He had to Abraham.
But while Isaac’s story may heavily mirror Abraham’s in some parts, he still was not Abraham and he had his own, individual walk with God. That walk meant continuing the path that his father started, but he was covering new ground along his way. Some of the differences between his path and Abraham’s are how the matter of having posterity was resolved much more quickly for Isaac, he was not asked to sacrifice his son, and he was already well on his way to wealth from what he had inherited.
Many things appear to have been easier for Isaac than they were for Abraham, and perhaps that is why so little of his story is recorded in the Bible. He is the main character only for the rest of this chapter, and then the focus will shift to Jacob, his son. Isaac served his purpose of continuing the line and the promise, but greater advancement in the face of adversity would come during the next generation.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.
There was mass evil in the world, so universal and so extreme that God was set on washing the slate clean. But in all this crowd of corruption, God did not lose sight of one who was innocent.
The story of Noah is a very encouraging example of how God is perfectly aware of the individual, and the great lengths to which He will go to save that one. As humans we often struggle to be so individually conscious. We have limits of time and space, which is why our laws are usually applied universally, targeted towards the average, but ill-fitting to all manner of individual edge cases. God, though, can raise a flood over the entire world and still hold a single boat safe in the palm of His hand.
In a previous study I explored how God has the capacity to see each of us individually. Though there are billions of us here on Earth, He hears our pleas directly and answers us personally. It is a remarkable feat, one that is a physical impossibility to all of us who are constrained by time.
Perhaps more important than God’s being able to, however, is that He wants to. I’ve seen my young son pray about the most inconsequential of things, such as his new toys and knee-scrapes, yet I am convinced that God listens to his heart with rapt attention. I am sure from His perspective that my prayers about work and finances seem just as inconsequential, but He cares about these things because we care about them.
In spite of all this, I know a lot of people that don’t expect God to ever make direct, personal covenants with them like He did for Abraham, David, or Moses. I myself have been doubtful of it at times. I’ve had this idea that I’ll just be grandfathered-in to the promises that he made to His covenant people millennia ago.
That simply is not the way God works, and I’d like to use this study to examine that fact. In the meantime I would love to hear about what ways you have seen God show up for you personally? What sort of legendary promises has He made to you? How did that change your life moving forward?
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
The people is one…and now nothing will be restrained from them
If one seeks evidence that there is great power in united individuals, that person need look no further than God’s own perspective of such unions. From verses like this it is clear that God respects the awesome potential of humans coupled together. In this moment God is speaking of a time when the people had a perfect understanding of each other, and of them He said that they had the power to accomplish whatever they imagined.
Think of how different that message is from the one of the world. Consider heroes like James Bond, Indiana Jones, or Superman. These are individuals who are truly individual, men who need no one but themselves to win the day. They are tantalizing fantasies, but they are fantasies. Yes, relationships are complicated and sometimes it seems that life would simpler if we could just stand by ourselves. But the reality baked into our humanity is that “it is not good for man to be alone.”
It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him
In my last study I explored the idea of a united community, something that God is clearly in favor of. However a community is not the social unit that He created in the beginning. First He just put two together, and for then that was enough. For this study I will be looking at these more intimate ties: those of companionship, soul mates, bosom friends, and kindred spirits.
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest
We have a common insecurity. We all want to be the best, the smartest, the favorite. We want to be the hero of the story, and have everyone else be the supporting characters. We fight for the love of parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors. We don’t just want them to approve of us, we want them to choose us above all others.
To be clear, our individuality is not a sin. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be a distinct person, in fact that uniqueness is a wondrous gift from God. But we do not need to convolute that beauty by making it into a competition.
Perhaps this insecurity is part of our nature, or maybe it is inflicted on us by life’s disappointments. Whatever the cause, at some point or another we grow uncertain either that we are unique, or that our uniqueness is good. So what does one do with this insecurity?
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us
The scriptures might not support us in trying to be better than one another, but this one does give us permission to be better at some things. You can honestly and proudly acknowledge that you really do have your own strengths. Your special abilities distinguish you from the rest of the world in wonderful ways.
It is not God’s intention for you to live crippled by your insecurities. He wants to give you have a one-of-a-kind role to play, one suited to your unique and precious talents. Then, by acknowledging your divine individuality, you will finally be able to let go of your insecurities and allow that everyone else can have their own individuality as well.
My dearest spiritual experiences have to do with the times that I felt the Lord was seeing me directly. Though I may try to appear as an entirely self-dependent adult to the world, in my heart I am still His child and I still crave His awareness of me.
Growing up I was the fourth child of nine. Though each one of us has always been a distinct individual, it was still hard to not feel labelled as “another one of the Austins.” In fact people still mistake me for one or another of my brothers even today. Any time I reached a milestone in life I had already seen brothers and sisters get there before me. Every accomplishment I achieved had already been exceeded by one sibling or another. I always felt that I was distinct, but I didn’t feel recognized as such.
If nine children seems like a lot, how about the billions of our Heavenly Father? And yet, remarkably, God has never treated me like a “one of.” In many interactions He has reiterated to me that I am “His only.” By which I mean that while He may have many children, I am the only me that He has. I am the only me that He will ever have. And He holds me precious because of that.
Though in the scriptures we hear Him promise blessings to all His children, in my experience He makes a point of delivering those blessings individually. You don’t receive His spirit because you are “one of” anything, you receive it because you are you. Never forget: though the rain may shower us all, the drops that fall on you are individual, they touch no one else.
And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.
And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.
And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.
After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him…
…but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
In all of the accounts of Jesus’s healing he never seems to use the same method twice. In one instance he leads the blind man out to a private area and administers to him multiple times, healing him by degrees. In another he never even lays eyes on the sick, he merely gives the order from afar and the healing occurs. Yesterday we saw how the woman with the issue of blood didn’t communicate with Jesus prior to her own healing, she just determined that she needed to touch his robe to be healed and that is exactly what happened.
Often Jesus would ask the sufferer what they would like him to do for them, and that was exactly what he would do. “As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.”
I think this shows an immense respect from the Savior for the individuality of those he heals. We all learn and grow in different ways, and he isn’t going to constrain us to a single method. He is happy to meet us in a place that we are comfortable with, entirely adaptable to our personal needs.