Sunday, January 11, 2009

between the lines

"for what does the scripture say? 'abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness."  ~> romans 4:3

i have been reading through the bible these past 11 days.  my brother gave me a chronological daily bible for Christ-mas and so i've begun my journey through it.  and while i have read these genesis stories many times, i often feel i'm missing so much.  in just a few sentences so much is said and we've heard them over and over and i think the impact is lost on those of us who grew up in sunday school.  what do i mean?  here are a couple of examples:

     * noah built an ark.  yep.  just because God told him to.  did he know what an ark was?  what tools did he use?  no skill saws.  no table saws.  no forge for creating saws.  how did he measure it?  God was very specific as to how big, how long, how tall this ark was supposed to be.  how did noah meet those specifications?  he didn't have a crane to get those logs (boards?) up to the upper levels.  
how did he do it?  he only had his 3 sons to help him.  everyone else was mocking him.  
how long did it take him to complete the ark?  150 years.  wow.  he was mocked for 15o years. he trusted the Lord in the midst of that (the building of an absurd structure, the laughing, the wondering just how necessary this was).  he pressed on.  but as i read this, i just accept it.  i don't grasp the reality.  noah was a real man.  a real OLD man.  an at least 450 year-old-man.  and he built a huge ship with his hands.  just think about it for a minute.  when you're finished, read the next point.
     *abraham passed sarah, his wife, off as his sister.  twice.  
so, picture this:  dust.  dirty, tired, sore feet.  you've been traveling for days.  on foot.  possibly on a donkey or a camel.  you set up camp, you cook, (do you have to wash dishes?!!), you sleep, you tear down camp, you walk, you repeat.  and finally you come upon a city.  o to wash your feet!  to sleep on a straw mat!  and then . . . here comes your husband.  he says, "i am a coward and i don't want to be killed.  i know the Lord said that i would father nations, but maybe if the king of this city knows you're my wife he'll kill me despite God's promise.  for my sake, say you are my sister.  after all, we do have the same father.  do this for me.  please?"  (okay, okay, that is not a direct translation!!)  what do you do?!  how do you feel?  this man is betraying you, your trust, your hope.  
just flush that out a bit.  think about all sides to the story.  don't simply read those lines once again and move on.  these were real people!!  
     *abraham bound his son, his only son, and placed him on an alter.  he raised his knife to kill him, but an angel stopped him.  
what was isaac thinking?!  "dad, what are you doing?!!"  
isaac, we learn, was about 20 years old.  abraham, then, was 120.  i don't know about you, but i don't know many 120 year old men who can wrestle a young guy down to the ground, bind him, and lift him on an alter!  or do you think that isaac willingly gave himself up to be sacrificed?  the scripture doesn't say.  just imagine it, can you?  in our society we put a lot of stock in what happened to us when we were children.  how our parents have impacted our lives.  think of the counseling a modern day isaac would seek!  "yes, my dad tried to sacrifice me . . . can you help me talk it out?"  i'm just saying!  

let's just try to fill in these blanks.  do i want to add to scripture?  absolutely not.  but do i want to recognize that these are literal events that happened to real people?  yes i do.  therefore i have to give thoughts to these people, i have to give them emotions.  i have to imagine myself in their shoes. 

now, let me attempt to take the other side of that last scenario.  for thirteen years, i was waiting on the Lord to give me a promised son.  it seemed impossible because of my old age.  and yet, the Lord is faithful.  He gave me a son, a wonderful son.  that was 20 years ago.  and last night the Lord came to me in a dream.  He told me to take my only son and offer him as a sacrifice to Him.  what would i, angela, do?!  do i trust God in all things?  do i love Him enough to give up the life of my child?  
abraham may have made some foolish mistakes in his life, but the Lord acknowledged his faith as righteousness.  selah.
just drink that in.
because let me tell you, not one of us can look down on abraham's blatant errors and thumb our noses.  i the least of all.  but God used abraham and God loved abraham.  and that, my friend, encourages me greatly!  

please Lord, use me, the sinner!



Greg's Wife said...

All of this was so lovely. I am having some serious personal struggles right now, and this helped me to see that I need to pull back and simply trust the Lord to shine a light in to the darkness that has settled in around me. Thank you, Angela.

Lena Wright said...

This is great, thanks for sharing. I too have been reading in Genesis...and I was struck by the passing off wife as sister incidents. Very interesting. Choices based on fear. My prayer is that I don't make choices based on fear, but rather on faith.

Thanks for sharing this!


Elias said...

you know what gets me about that story of abraham and isaac? it says that the next morning Abraham "rose early in the morning" and took his servants and his son. "early in the morning"! he didn't hesitate. he obeyed quickly. wow!

Emily Strawn Photography said...

thank you for taking the time to help us refocus. I think that often we do take these stories for granted because we have heard them our whole lives. These are truly amazing people that truly trusted the Lord. The stories should shock us everytime we read them.
Thank you for the reminder.