Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:1-2, 5-6

1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.

2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.

5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.

6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

After Sarah’s passing Abraham took another wife, who bare him six sons that we hardly hear anything about. Abraham gave gifts to all of these sons and then sent them away to establish their own households, retaining the full inheritance for Isaac. Giving the inheritance to a single son was a common custom of the time, but more than that, God had chosen Isaac to carry on His covenant, and not the other sons.

Similarly, God would select only one of Isaac’s sons to receive the covenant promise: Jacob. But then, in the next generation, all of Jacob’s twelve sons would be included in the covenant, not just one. Thus, the decision for how the covenant was passed along to each generation was God’s to make, and then the father’s inheritance followed suit.

While God’s reasoning for which sons he chose for the covenant are not always elaborated, we do see in the case of Jacob and Esau that God selected the son who was more faithful. It seems likely that the continuation of the covenant was based on one’s worthiness, rather than a matter of random election.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 21:1-3

1 And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken.

2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

The author of this passage wanted to make it extremely clear that God had made good on His promises. Look at the phrases “as he had said,” “as he had spoken,” and “at the time of which God had spoken.” God had come through completely, and this is an important difference between God and man: God not only keep His promises, He keeps them in every detail of how, when, and where.

Abraham and Sarah’s patience had been tested by this promise. It was years between when God first announced they would have son and the day that it actually occurred. But when God finally gave a specific timeframe for the birth to occur it happened “at the time of which God had spoken.”

Many times we might struggle to believe in God’s promises when it seems long since the time that they should have been fulfilled. Many times God gives us encouragement far in advance of the realization, and it requires great patience to see the journey through to the end. But as soon as God does give specific details of His promises, they will all be met to the letter.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 9:20-23

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.

Each of us have our personal low point, our “naked shame” that reveals us at our absolute worst. As with Moses, it is often our family who get to see us at those low points. Sometimes they get to see the best of us, but they also get to see the worst. Here we read that Noah was drunk and passed out, certainly not the most honorable of situations to be found in, and the different reactions of his three sons is very telling.

Shem and Japheth keep themselves turned away from their father’s shame and cover him. They are clearly retaining a reverence and respect for the man, even at his low point. And by that I don’t mean to suggest that we should just sweep the failings of our family members under the rug, but if confrontation and boundaries are needed, we can still establish those from a place of love and respect.

Ham, on the other hand, has no excuse for his behavior. Glorying in another’s shame and ridiculing them is never acceptable. By trying to expose his father’s wrong, Ham was also revealing his own.

Who Am I?- Personal Example #2

I do wonder if God is ever amused that we get so worked up on mysteries and questions, especially ones to which He has already placed the simplest answers in plain sight. As I found myself trying to reflect on whether I can be a creation, made in the image of my Heavenly Father, and still be an individual, I had the following thought come to me: “well how is it with your own son, Abe?”

I do have a son of my own, and he is very like me. He doesn’t necessarily look a great deal like I do, not even back when I was his age, but his mind and demeanor I find very familiar. My wife has commented on it as well, how he is very much my son, and not hers.

But then, for all the likenesses between us…he is not me. I can understand much of him, I can relate to many of his experiences, but some parts are entirely an enigma. Parts that my wife cannot claim either, things that are just all him.

As my son grows, I expect that he will manifest even more qualities that are like mine, but I know that he will also always be his own individual. My hope is that the two of us will always be close, share common passions and purposes, be united, and be willing to work together…. But that we will always do so as our own selves.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Frankly, I do not want another me, I rather like being the only one! So, too, I would much rather that my son be himself.

I am convinced it is the same with God. God has Himself, so that’s already covered. If I made myself just like Him, then I would only be giving Him what He already had, and that isn’t what He’s interested in.

What He really wants from me…is me.

All or Nothing- Luke 15:11-14, 17-20, 22-24

And he said, A certain man had two sons:
And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

COMMENTARY

Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.
And not many days after the younger son wasted his substance with riotous living.
Each one of us can relate with the story of the Prodigal Son to some degree. Like the son, each of us began life with wonderful gifts from our Father. Whether we grew up in a religious home or not, our common inheritance at birth included a divine soul, the ability to feel God’s spirit in our hearts, and a desire to be connected with Him.
Like the son, though, so many of us (all of us?) undervalue the significance of such things. We take the greatest gifts that we have in life and squander them, vainly pursuing entertainment or medication in all the wrong places.

And when he had spent all, he began to be in want.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many servants of my father’s have bread enough, and I perish with hunger!

One cannot sever the soul from the body. One can try to muffle it, suppress it, and outright deny it. But it is there, and it does ache us when we fail to care for it. We cannot squander our birthright and not feel bad about it. Sooner or later, we “come to ourselves,” and realize that where once we had everything, now we have nothing.

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
We had everything, we traded it all for nothing, and now we’ll gladly take anything. From one extreme to the next to the next, we learn to finally give proper value to that which was taken for granted. We are all in now, willing to do whatever it takes to receive whatever God is still willing to give us.

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring the fatted calf, and let us eat, and be merry
.
And then, of course, the ending which turns would-be followers into full-blown evangelists. Grace and mercy that seem ridiculously over-the-top and totally undeserved. Complete forgiveness and restoration. Not because we’ve earned it, but because God just wants to and no one can tell Him that He can’t! From everything to nothing, to all in, to even more “everything” than we had at the beginning.
This is not some pretty fairy tale that describes an unreal hypothetical. It is not a limited allegory, that will only apply to one or two of God’s most special followers. It is the story that was meant for me, and meant for you, and meant for us all.

Sacrifice and Consecration- Genesis 14:18-20, 22:10-13

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

COMMENTARY

And he gave him tithes of all
Lay not thine hand upon the lad…for now I know that thou fearest God

We commonly say that God required Abraham to sacrifice his son, but that is not true. What God required was for Abraham to be willing to sacrifice his son. It might seem a subtle distinction, but I believe it is significant.

  1. In the end, Abraham did sacrifice his tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. Nothing was held back.
  2. In the end, Abraham did not sacrifice his son. He was held back from actually following through.

Now I don’t mean to discount the mental anguish that Abraham must have faced just by preparing to sacrifice his son. It surely was immense. Even so, it would seem that Abraham was able to recover from it. His life went on, and he continued faithful to the Lord.
I believe that much of the fear I have had in regards to sacrifice is that I don’t want God to break me by mistake. We have all manner of people who ask things of us: parents, teachers, friends, spouses; and even the ones that mean well sometimes ask more than they know, sometimes they hurt us in ways that they shouldn’t.
When we see this failing in those around us it can be easy to project the same fear onto God. What if he asks more of us than He should and accidentally damages us in irreparable ways? It is a misplaced fear, though, for He knows our own limits better than even we do! He knows what He should ask of us, and He knows what He should not. He will test us and He will bend us, but through it all He will maintain utmost respect for our tender hearts.

The Lord Sees You- Summary

As I suggested at the beginning of this series, our topic is one that is very near and dear to my heart. I feel that too often the notion of God seeing all is used to provoke fear in those that are doing wrong, leaving the far more beautiful side of that truth forgotten. A truth that God is never apart from the lonely, that He never misunderstands the misunderstood, that He does not fail to see the overlooked. He is the cure to what ails us.

Jesus Overlooks No One

Humans are finite beings with limited capacities. Even if you never meant to ignore someone, you most certainly have at some point or another. It’s not something we have to feel guilty about (unless it is done intentionally) because our reality is one of mortal limitations.
Anyone that has done any sort of ministry work where they strive for the souls of others knows the reality of this. Anyone who has been a parent knows this. There are simply too many people for you to be there for all of them at all times. There are too many problems that you don’t know the perfect answer to. Perhaps if you could be all things to all people you would, but you simply can’t. And that is why at the end of the day we always have to turn things over to God. He is the one that time and space do not limit, that hunger or stress do not distract. He will always see His children.
Luke 2:5- And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him.
Luke 21:2- And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.

Jesus Sees Correctly

I remember a time I went with my wife and son to a park. We played for a little while, had a good time, and then told our son it was time to go to an appointment. He was about two at the time, and seemed fine with the arrangement at first, but as we got back into our car, though, he started to cry and shout. I assumed he just didn’t want to stop playing, explained to him we really had to go, and proceeded to force him into his car seat.
As I got into the driver’s seat my wife was finally able to make out what he was saying: he had dropped his toy car in the grass as we left and didn’t want us to drive away without it. Thankfully we were able to find it, but I left feeling incredibly humbled.
I had been there the whole time, but I had entirely misread the situation. I was unknowingly signalling to my son that I didn’t care about his things. Again, we have finite limitations, and one of the most pronounced is we so often fail to communicate. We misjudge things all the time. I am so grateful to know that my son has another Father, too, one who will never misunderstand him. One who will see directly to the heart of every matter.
Luke 21:3-4- And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

When We Are Seen We Are Made Better

When finally we meet that Lord who always sees us and always sees us rightly, then all the good parts of our heart start to unlock. One of the most common trends in those that commit crimes, particularly violent ones, is that they have a history of isolation. When people are not a part of a community, when they don’t have loved ones at home, when there is no one to see them and understand them, then the worst parts tend to come out.
The opposite is true as well. When one feels acknowledged, understood, and validated they are most likely to seek their own self improvement, find meaningful work, and contribute back to their society.
Some of us may go through periods of loneliness, where we don’t have immediate family members or friends nearby to accompany us. And even if we did have them around us, there would still be those times that they misread us.
But there always remains a Savior who sees us, one who has promised His constant companionship. He sees us and He wants to tell us about all the wonderful things that He sees. Have you ever asked Him to share? I promise you that only good will come of it.
Matthew 28:20- Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

The Differences Between Knowing, Doing, and Becoming- Matthew 4:6, 27:40, 3:17

And when the tempter came to him, he said…If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

COMMENTARY

Previously we discussed that’s Peter test was to be challenged in his commitment to his identity. He called himself a disciple of Jesus, but when pressed by fear he then denied that. It is tragic, but also very relatable. For many of us our crisis of faith involves us similarly questioning who we really are.
Maybe we feel we don’t know as much as we should and maybe we feel we don’t do as much as we should, but where the guilt of these failings comes to their full agony is when they make us feel that maybe then we aren’t the person we should be. At one point or another we have all asked: Am I really a child of God?

And when the tempter came to him, he said…If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down…
If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

In these crises of identity it may be helpful to recall that Jesus was tempted in the exact same fashion. Very early in his ministry Satan came to tempt him, and Satan’s attack was immediately to cast doubt on Jesus’s identity. If thou be the Son of God.
But the accusations did not end after that initial temptation. In fact, in the Savior’s final moments on the cross the exact same doubt was cast by the people at his feet. If thou be the Son of God.
The similarity between these moments are astounding. In fact each calls for the same action: come down. It is the same demand made of each of us. Stop thinking you can be a worthy son or daughter of God, come down.

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Fortunately there is another voice as well, and one that repudiates the tempter. God knows our identities are challenged, and He speaks to reaffirm our worthiness. This is my beloved Son. He establishes identity, being, and character.
I am convinced that of all the truths God wants me to have faith in, this is the one He wants most of all: You are my son. If I allow myself to be His son, then the knowing and the doing will just naturally flow from that.