Friday, December 09, 2011

Father Abraham

In the Bible classes I'm teaching, we read Genesis 15 this week. (Take a second and read it)

Well that's a simple enough story right? Easy to understand...

riiiiiggght (insert rolling eyes here)

(Ok, enough eye rolling)

(serious face)

I've noticed many times when I read the Bible, I just don't get the point. Why was that even written? What is this trying to teach me? Is this supposed to make me love or understand God better? So confused. (insert confused face here)

I've read this passage before, I've taught about this passage before. But I've never really thought about it before.

I'm like that. I quickly read something, but then don't think about it too deeply. I like things to be spelled out for me. Too much thinking takes too much effort.

OK, I'm just lazy I guess. (I spent more time being frustrated by being made to interpret or find the hidden meaning in English Lit classes than actually thinking about things.)

But if I repeat things enough, sometimes I get it. In this case, I've experienced enough that I finally get it. Let me re-tell the story for you: (some 13 and 14 thrown in for background info...)

Abram is God's friend. God likes Abram a lot. God sent him to a new country, made him rich and powerful, he's got a beautiful wife, powerful friends, a bit of a stupid nephew and stuff like that. Well, his stupid nephew went to live near a rich, but not so "nice" city (Imagine Las Vegas on speed, minus the flashing lights). The king of this city and his four friends went and rebelled against a different king. This causes all kinds of problems and the big king gathers up his three friends and decides to teach them a lesson. A whole lot of people get captured and taken away, including Abram's nephew. One guy escapes and tells Abram, who has no choice but to talk to his two friends, gather up his 318 men (plus friends' men) and go get his nephew back. Abram, who is being backed by God, of course wins with no problems and rescues all the people. Only now the stupid king wants to bribe Abram and get him under his thumb. Abram wisely refuses, and goes back home.

Now Abram is understandably stressed out. So God, concerned about His friend, comes to comfort him. "Don't sweat the small stuff Abram! I've got your back! You know I'm always gonna be there for you!" But Abram's feeling a bit down, and he's kinda feeling the years. And he thinks back, and realizes he's been in this Caanan for a while now, and all these big promises God gave him 5 or 6 years ago still haven't happened the way he thought they would. So he lets a bit of his frustration show. "What are you talking about God? You promised me that I would be come a "great nation" and all that. But I'm still here living in tents with no land of my own, and no children to populate this great nation. I'm getting old and I don't even have an heir. Heck my servant is going to be the one to inherit everything when I die! I mean he's a nice guy and everything, but he's just not the same thing as a son you know... So what do you want me to make of all this stuff?"

God smiles and says "Don't worry. You won't have to give your servant all your stuff. You will have a child from your own body. I'm gonna give you all this land. Check out the stars. Try to count them. This is what your future descendants look like. Nice huh?"

And Abram believed. God's happy that Abram believes, but notices that Abram is still feeling a little uncertain. Abram see's the present, and can't imagine how it will become such a future. God's got a hidden plan, but Abram can't see all that. All Abram can see is the fact that he's a foreigner in a land full of all these violent tribes, and he has no children to boot. (and he's been pretty patient too...) So, God, in His compassion, decides to show Abram how much He loves him.

"Hey, tell you what. I'll show you how serious I am. Let's do that ceremony, you know the one the leaders do when they promise something big. You go get the animals and get them ready."

So God performs this traditional ceremony (which basically means, "If I break my promise, then may I end up just like these animals, cut up and torn apart") which is kinda like a conditional curse (the big scary ancestor of "cross my heart, hope to die, poke a needle in my eye") and then even tells Abram parts of His secret plan, 400 years in the future. (Your descendants will become slaves in a foreign land, but don't worry, I'll punish the nation, and bring them back rich. Then I'll give them this land here, while punishing the people who live here at the same time. It's a great plan don't you think? All these crazy, violent people here, have 400 years to get their act together, before I punish them. And then I'll give you this land I've been promising you. Just be more patient. Oh but don't worry, you'll die an old man peacefully here.)

Wow. That's pretty awesome. God did all of that for Abram. Abram must have felt very humbled, very loved after that big production. Wow.

And that gave Abram the strength to wait the next 15 years until he could see God's promise, Isaac for the first time.

20 years of waiting. But God was with Abram the whole time. God kept supporting and loving Abram the whole time (even when Abram messed up!)

This has become one of the most awesome stories ever! (super excited happy face here)

I always get excited when I come across revelations like this one. I can look back on my life, and then I can see where God was with me, and all the things He has done for me. When I get frustrated because life doesn't seem to be going the way I thought it would... When I mess up, or loose my confidence.... When I wonder if God even likes me.... It's easy to loose sight of God's love. But if I stop, and really remember.... Yes, there was that time when I felt completely loved by God. And there was the other time when God encouraged me in this way.... There are so many!

And I can calm down, stop thinking only about the way things look now, and remember that God is always with me, and always loves me, even if things don't always happen at my pace.

Although I'm kinda glad God doesn't show me His love by splitting apart animals anymore!

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