Genesis 24 — Abraham was now very old, and the LORD had blessed him in every way

It is well with my soul


Abraham was now very old, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.

Genesis 24:1


We last left Abraham burying Sarah in the cave of Macpelah, a cave that he bought from the Hittites. Now, here, in Genesis 24, the Lord begins the chapter in a somewhat peculiar way: Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way.

The Lord had blessed him in every way… hmmm. Blessed in every way? You might be thinking. Didn’t Abraham have to leave his homeland without a plan of exactly where he might be going? (Genesis 12:1) Didn’t Abraham and his household live through a severe famine in Canaan? (Genesis 12:10) Wasn’t Abraham’s wife taken into Pharoah’s harem? (Genesis 12:11-20) Wasn’t Abrahams nephew taken as a prisoner of war? And didn’t Abraham have to go to battle against four kings to save him? (Genesis 14) Didn’t Abraham have to send away his oldest son? (Genesis 21:8-21) Wasn’t Abraham circumcised at the age of ninety-nine? Genesis (17:24)

Yes, Abraham experienced trials, but the Lord blessed Abraham in every way because of the trials not in spite of the them.

“How to Avoid Stress at Work”

“10 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress”

“How to Reduce Stress in Daily Life”  the article headlines read.

We live in a time when we’re taught to avoid stress, but in reality, experiencing zero stress, or living a life without trials, is a terrible way to live. Think this through with me. A life without trials? You don’t want to go there. It would be like boxing against a kindergartner. It would be like fishing in a barrel. It would be like arm wrestling Paris Hilton. It would be pointless. It would be boring.

Trials in your life are a part of God’s plan — for five reasons.


1. To draw you closer to Jesus Christ:

I think this is very obvious to anyone who has walked with the Lord for a time. When we’re at our lowest is usually when we’re at our closest with God. He desires fellowship with you. Sometimes trials seem to be the only way to get our attention.


2. To prepare you for the future:

I doubt if Abraham would have had the faith to take Isaac up to the top of Mount Tabor and sacrifice his only begotten son, had he not experienced God’s loving, merciful, and gracious hand on his life during the trials he’d experienced previously. Abraham’s faith resulted in a beautiful prophetic picture of the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. A prophetic story of Christ that has been read by millions of people over thousands of years. Abraham’s faith produced something truly great. And Abraham’s faith was born out of his trials. Abraham’s faith grew out of those trials. Are you walking in a valley right now? Are you struggling to find a job? Is your relationship failing? Is your health failing? Take heart. Take hope. It’s hard, I know, but like Abraham, God will use this to grow your faith and to prepare you for something truly great in your future.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)


3. To help you to help others:

You know, one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had in life has been praying for, visiting, counseling, and supporting a few of my friends who have had by-pass operations. Of course, for me to be used by the Lord in that way required that I had to experience a by-pass operation myself. But having survived it I now have the privilege of helping others who are going through the same thing. The people who God uses to help the most are usually the people who have been through it before. After you’ve survived your trial, you’ll have the privilege of helping someone else.


4. To allow others to see the Lord’s hand on your life:

The famous hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, was written by a man named Horatio Spafford during a time of terrific trial in his life. He had recently lost his only son at the age of four. Shortly thereafter he was ruined financially as a result of the great Chicago fire. Just a few years later he arranged a trip to Europe on a ship with his family, but he was delayed on business. So his wife and children took the voyage ahead of him. He would come later, on a different boat. Tragically, the ship carrying his wife and four daughters collided with another and sank. Only his wife survived. Horatio received a now famous but tragic telegram from his wife that read, “Saved alone…” It was in the middle of this storm of tragedy that the Holy Spirit inspired Horatio Spafford to write the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. Written in the late 1800’s, for more than one hundred years now, millions have been inspired and encouraged by the Holy Spirit’s presence in Horatio’s life during that incredibly difficult time.

When you or I are going through a trial people are watching. They’re wondering if this whole Jesus thing is real or what. They want to see how you’ll respond to the challenge you’re going through. Abraham influenced the Hittites in chapter 23 of Genesis during a time when he was experiencing the loss of his wife Sarah. (see previous post) I have found this to be the case in my own life. When I’m in the midst of a trial is when I’ve found people to be most open to be influenced for God’s kingdom. When people see the Holy Spirit in you and upon you, when people see you maintain your attitude, when people see you walk through the valley gracefully and full of God’s grace, that’s when God’s power is manifested. That’s often when others will find you to be someone who attracts them to Christ.


5. To prepare you for eternity:

From the Lord’s perspective your life is all about your eternal condition, not your current comfort. It’s similar to why we train our kids for adulthood. We know that for them to enjoy being an adult they’ll need to learn how to build relationships, they’ll need to learn discipline, and work ethic, and honesty, and integrity, and… the list goes on. For our kids to learn these things we put them in situations that they sometimes feel are painful. We make them get up in the morning, we send them to school, we require them to perform chores, we kick them off the X-box and send them outside to play. As a father, as a mother, we’re more concerned with their being prepared for adult life than we are with their current comfort. It’s the same with you and the Lord. He’s more interested in preparing you for eternity than He is in your current comfort.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)


I’m not saying that it’s enjoyable while you or I are in the midst of a trial, but I am saying that after you’ve experienced closeness with Him in your suffering, after you’ve experienced God’s merciful and gracious hand on your life during your trial, after you finally come out of the other side of the crucible, you’ll be blessed.

Show me a man without trials and I’ll show you a man without growth!

Hold on.

Hang in there.

Persevere.

Trials are a blessing in the end.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.


James 1:2


It Is Well With My Soul:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.


It is well, with my soul,

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.


Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


It is well, with my soul,

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.


My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


It is well, with my soul,

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.


It is well, with my soul,

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.



References:

Bible Gateway

Jon Courson

Genesis 23 — I am a foreigner and stranger among you

The Death of Sarah


Read Genesis 23

We last left Abraham returning from Mount Moriah where his faith was tested by God and a prophetic picture was painted of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here in chapter 23 we see Abraham experience the loss of his wife Sarah. She died at one hundred twenty-seven years old in the land of Canaan at Kiriath Arba, also called Hebron. The name Hebron means fellowship which speaks of Sarah’s fellowship with both her husband Abraham and her Lord the God of Abraham. She is the only woman in the Bible whose age of death is given, presumably to honor her as she’s cited in 1 Peter 3:1-6 as an example of how a wife should relate to her husband.

Sarah had married Abraham when she was at the very most, fifty years old, and she most likely was much younger than that. So they had been married for an absolute minimum of seventy-seven years but it could be that they were married for as long as over one hundred years. It’s not surprising then when in verse two we read that Abraham went to mourn for her and to weep over her.

And it’s here in verse two that we see the first mention of weeping in the Bible. Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll are they not in your record? David said in Psalm 56:8. God doesn’t discount what you’re going through. You’re dark hour doesn’t go unnoticed. On the contrary, our Lord lists every one of your tears, He takes account of them all. He knows.

In the next verse however we read that Abraham rose up from the body of his wife and went to address the people of the land, the Hittites. So though our Lord records Abraham’s tears, at the same time, He doesn’t want Abraham to mourn forever, nor, I’m sure, does Sarah. And neither does God want you or I to mourn forever for a loved one whose passed. Ultimately we’re to rise up and continue our sojourn through to the finish line.

I’m a stranger here… Abraham says in verse 4…

A friend and Christian brother of mine, retired firefighter John Webb, lost his wife recently after a six month battle with cancer. They had been married for almost fifty years. I’ll never forget that sunny afternoon that I met up with John just five or six hours after she passed away. He had this gentle smile on his face, he was so obviously content. I just marveled as we stood there at the end of his driveway in front of his house as he told me of Fran’s increased interest in the scriptures and in her relationship with the Lord over the year previous to her diagnosis of cancer. I was blown away at John’s faith in that he seemed perfectly composed and completely satisfied in the knowledge that his wife was now with her Savior in heaven. I came to encourage him but wound up encouraged myself. I left inspired by his trust in Jesus. The goodness of Christ often manifests itself most noticeably during times of trial.

I’m a stranger here, Abraham says after he rose up from the body of his wife. And so are you and so am I. Though Abraham and my friend John were living in the shadow of the loss of their wives, they both realized they and their wives were/are just passin’ through.

They also realized that when you’re living in a time of shadow, in order for there to be a shadow in the first place there has to be Light coming from somewhere.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has put eternity in your heart. It’s when you’re focused on the Light of the eternal that you can rise up from the death and dearth around you. It’s when you realize that you’re a stranger here, a sojourner that you can be strong and of a good courage and know that the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9 KJV)

Dr. Barnhouse tells the story of a young woman who received news that her husband died in the war. She immediately told her mother that she was going upstairs to her bedroom. When her father came home and heard about what happened he went up to her room and found her kneeling by her bed praying, “Oh my heavenly Father, oh my heavenly Father, oh my heavenly Father…” He returned downstairs to his wife and said, “She’s in better hands than mine.”

It’s a focus on our eternal Father in heaven, it’s a realization that we’re strangers here in the temporal, we’re just passing through, it’s a recognition that nothing here on this earth is ever going to satisfy us, that’s what’ll get you through the dark shadow you’re walking through now.

Eternity is where it’s at.

That’s what to look toward, to point toward, and to draw inspiration from.

It’s about eternity. It’s about our eternal Father in heaven.

Back to Abraham: Now Abraham is moving forward with his life and he begins to address a problem. He’s a foreigner in the land of Caanan and doesn’t own any property that is suitable for Sarah’s burial, so he enters into a negotiation with the Hittites of the land:

I’m a stranger here, and I need to bury my wife, so how about if you sell me some property for a burial site for her.

The Hittites reply in verse 6, Hey, listen, you’re a prince among us. Pick whatever tomb you like, the best of the best. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burial.

You know, living for Christ can cost you in the short term. Those times when you choose to live for Him are sometimes awkward with your coworkers, classmates, friends, or even family. A life of holiness and humility is generally out of sync with the world. But it’s interesting that Lot, who wanted to influence Sodom by engaging in the culture of Sodom, ended up influencing no one. In fact we see in Genesis 19:9 that the Sodomites actually said to Lot, “Who are you?” (see previous post on Genesis 19) But Abraham, who lived for the Lord without regard for the Caananite culture, now has the reputation of a Prince among the Hittites. In the end, Abraham had a huge influence on the people around him. I’ve found that if you’re living a life that’s sold out for Christ, while you may be seen as a stranger in the world, as Abraham was, eventually you may be honored, as Abraham was, for God tells us that those who humble themselves shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)

Then Abraham bows down in humility before the Hittites and says, If you’re willing to let me bury my dead here in your land, then talk to Ephron the son of Zohar for me. Ask him to sell me the the cave of Machpelah which is at the end of his field. I’ll pay full price.

Now Ephron happened to be sitting there in the crowd and he heard Abraham’s request. So he hopped up and replied to Abraham and said, Listen, Abraham, I’ll give you the field and I’ll give you the cave. With everyone here as a witness, I’m telling you I’ll give them to you. Go and bury your wife.

But Abraham humbly bows down again and replies, Look, I’ll pay the price. Go ahead and accept whatever price you ask of me and I’ll go ahead and bury my dead.

Then Ephron says something that would be comical were it not for the circumstances, he says, Well, the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver (about ten pounds or 4.6 kilograms) but what’s four hundred shekels of silver among friends? Go ahead and bury her.

“Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” the king of Sodom said to Abraham in verse 21 of Genesis 14. But Abraham wouldn’t accept anything from the king of Sodom. In Genesis 23, Ephron tells Abraham three times that he’ll give him the property for free. But Abraham wouldn’t accept anything from Ephron either. Gifts from the world come with strings attached. Be wise, as Abraham was, and avoid accepting temporal gifts that are offered for “free.” (see previous post onGenesis 14)

So Abraham, taking Ephron’s not so subtle hint, agrees to his terms, weighs out the silver, and the field and the cave are deeded over to Abraham in front of the Hittites at the gate of the City of Hebron. And there he  buries Sarah.

Abraham, promised of God the entire land of Caanan, in his lifetime, possesses only one field and a tomb. It speaks of the truth that even the longest liver must die at last. (Abraham was rich but even the poorest of the earth will possess a grave of some sort) When we lose loved ones we can say with certainty that, they are gone, and, we are going. (Matthew Henry)

Life is short, eternity is forever, so invest wisely.

Invest in eternity.

Live for Christ.


Genesis 23

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[a] He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf  so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

Ephron answered Abraham, “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.


References:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Chuck Missler

Jon Courson

Ben Courson

Bible-History.com

God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering: Genesis 22

Jesus Abraham Isaac sacrifice

Read Genesis 22

We last saw Abrahm together with Isaac when he was celebrating Isaac’s weaning. At that time Isaac was somewhere between three and five years old. Genesis 22 begins in verse one with the phrase Some time later… So fast forward to today’s story where some say that Isaac is now in his thirties. He’s been the apple of his parent’s eye for thirty or so years now and even as his name means laughter, he’s provided laughter and joy to both Abraham and Sarah. Which as we’ll see makes the next phrase in our story, God tested Abraham, just about as gut wrenching as you can imagine. Abraham is about to hear what to him must have seemed like a very strange request from the Lord.

“Abraham!” The Lord said.

“Here I am” Abraham replied.

“Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah.”

The name Moriah means “Foreseen of Jehovah.” It’s as if God is saying, Here’s a prophetical enactment, a foreseeing of the time to come when I will sacrifice My only Son, who I love. Indeed in our story we’ll see just that. Even as Jesus experienced a Gethsemane, a Calvary, and a Resurrection, it could be said that these three are also found in the story of Abraham’s test.

Gethsemane

“Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering,” the Lord continued.

What a strange and amazing request. We don’t know if Abraham sweat great drops of blood as Jesus did in the garden, but imagine yourself in Abraham’s place for a moment. Imagine his anguish. Imagine the incredible heaviness of his heart. Imagine the tears, the thoughts of how Sarah would react, the thoughts of acting out what the Lord has requested of him.

So, what did Abraham say to God? NO Lord, I can’t do that because I love him too much? Or perhaps, NO Lord, Sarah will never stand for it and how would I face her if I did such a thing? Or, NO Lord, I just can’t bear to do what you’re asking me to do?

As you know, he didn’t say any of these things. Instead, the Bible tells us that after his Gethsemane, Abraham rose up early the next morning, loaded his donkey with enough wood for the burnt offering, rounded up two servants, rounded up Isaac, and set off to do what the Lord had told him to do.

I am so impressed with Abraham, doing this thing that I don’t believe I could ever do. He didn’t waste time, he didn’t tarry, he set off to do what the Lord told him to.

After three days of travel with the donkey, Isaac, and the two servants, Abraham looks up and sees the place that God told him about.

He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Calvary

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac even as the cross was placed on the shoulders of God’s own Son, Jesus. (John 19:17) And Isaac carried it up the hill even as Jesus carried the cross up the same hill. And Abraham carried the fire and a knife. The fire speaking of God’s judgement as it does throughout scripture.

Now, as they progress up the hill, Isaac asks a very intelligent question, “Father?” he asks.

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replies.

“The fire and the wood are here but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answers, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

And the two of them went off together.

When they climbed the hill and reached the place that God had told Abraham about, Abraham, as we have seen him do so many times before in scripture, builds an altar. He arranges the wood on it, and, I imagine, with tears streaming down his face and with his heart breaking, he binds Isaac to the altar. The binding of Isaac speaks of Isaac’s submissiveness to his father in that there’s no way Abraham, an old man, could have possibly bound his son to the altar had Isaac not submitted himself. Therefore Isaac appears to be as willing as Abraham in the matter.

“Who is it you want?” Jesus asked the detachment of soldiers when they came to arrest him.

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18)

Jesus, the One Who said “I am he” and knocked over every soldier present, the One who spoke three words and blew away a detachment, didn’t have to submit to being bound. But even as Isaac was willing, Jesus was also willing to submit to the will of His Father. A few verses further along in John 18 Jesus allows the soldiers to bind him and lead him away.

Back to Abraham: Then Abraham, fighting against his own heart’s cry to spare his son Isaac, Abraham, with the very hands that so many times before he had lifted toward heaven in worship to his Lord, Abraham, in obedience to God’s word and trusting that God will provide a way for Isaac to live according to His promise, reached his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

Resurrection

How did he do it? How did Abraham find the faith to obey God’s command?

We find a clue about how he found this great faith in verse five where Abraham said something very interesting to his two servants: “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

“…we will come back to you,” Abraham said. Even as Jesus said in Mark 8:31 that He would rise after three days, Abraham says, “…we will come back to you.” We, he said. I and the boy will come back to you. Abraham knew that God had promised him descendants from Isaac, for some years ago the Lord said in Genesis 21:12 that “…it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” And for that reason he knew that the Lord, ultimately, had to provide a way for Isaac to live, even if it meant that He had to raise Isaac from the dead.

When speaking of Abraham’s faith in this incredible situation the Lord tells us in Hebrews 11:19 that Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

So Abraham, trusting that the Lord will resurrect Isaac, lifts his hand to slay his only begotten son…

…but, the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham from heaven, called out to him twice, called out to him urgently, “Abraham, Abraham!”

And Abraham, obedient once again, stays his hand and says, “Here I am.”

Stop! Don’t slay him, don’t do anything to him, the angel of the Lord says. “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Just then Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught by his horns in a thicket. It was just as Abraham had told Isaac it would be when he said in verse eight that, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering…”

So Abraham took the ram from the thicket and sacrificed it as a burnt offering, in place of his son.

And from then on that place has been called “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Then the angel of the Lord tells Abraham that, “I swear by myself…”

(Whenever we see the term the angel of the Lord, it speaks of Jesus preincarnate. Men always swear by someone greater than themselves, but who can the angel of the Lord swear by but Himself, for there’s no one greater than Him)

“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

The Prophetic Picture

Do you see the amazing prophetic picture that’s been painted here?

Even before the story of Abraham’s test we find remarkable parallels between Isaac and Jesus.

Both Isaac and Jesus were conceived miraculously. Isaac was miraculously conceived by a man and woman 100 and 90 years old respectively. Jesus was miraculously conceived by God, of a virgin.

Both Isaac’s and Jesus’ births were promised previously. Isaac’s some twenty-five years before and Jesus’ thousands of years before in Genesis 3:15.

Both Isaac’s and Jesus’ parents were instructed by the Lord what to name their son.

And of course within today’s story there’s more:

“…all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” God said in verse 18. All nations will be blessed because Jesus Christ, the source of eternal salvation for all of the world, would come from the line of Isaac. (Hebrews 5:9, Matthew 1, Luke 3)

“The mountain of the Lord,” is the same place, the very place where God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, would be sacrificed thousands of years later.

On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided, Abraham called the place. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) On the mountain of the Lord God provided His lamb as a sacrifice in place of me, and in place of you. In the very spot where Abraham and Isaac prophetically enacted Christ’s story of the death and resurrection, Jesus died for your sins and mine, in place of you, and in place of me.

Here am I, Jesus said, let these go their way. (John 18:8 KJV)

The price that God requires for your sin, the price required for every debt you owe, the price required for every time you fell short has been paid for on Mount Moriah (also called Mount Calvary) by Jesus, God’s lamb, provided by God…

as a substitute

to die

in place of you.

Thank the Lord.

Glory to God in the highest.

See So Your Life Is Falling Apart.

The Bride of Christ

The last five verses of chapter 22 list the genealogy of Nahor’s sons which might seem a little random unless you notice that Rebekah is included in the genealogy. Rebekah, the one who will become Isaac’s bride later in Genesis. This completes the picture as it speaks of the bride of Christ, the church, who will ultimately be united with Jesus. That’s you, and that’s me, and that’s good news.

[Image via dalbera – Creative Commons]

Resources and related articles:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Chuck Missler

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson

Isaiah53.com

You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it: 1 Corinthians 12:27

Andrew


Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:27

The house is quiet. A Shrek movie is on TV but Kathy’s not watching because she’s asleep, worn out from a long day. Except for a few items with a “FREE” sign on them, the driveway and front yard of our house are empty and clean. But that’s not what it looked like earlier today. As recently as this afternoon it looked like a large moving van had crashed in our front yard. There were lounge chairs, tables, desks, clothes, a battery powered wheel chair, outdoor furniture, a nearly brand new above ground swimming pool (some assembly required), and a host of other household items strewn about in our front yard. All of these came from people with generous hearts who donated them for a yard sale to help raise money for the medical care of my seven month old grandson Andrew.

Andrew has Bilateral Isolated Frontosphenoidal Craniosynostosis, which is a fancy medical term that means the part of Andrew’s skull behind his eyes and around his left temple isn’t growing as fast as it should. Without surgical intervention the left frontal lobe of his brain won’t have enough room to grow properly. The left frontal lobe is the part of the brain that provides our speech and language function. So no intervention would most likely result in a compromised ability to talk, read, and write.

That’s heart-rending. But there’s good news. Andrew’s family abides in Jesus Christ. And one of the benefits of belonging to Jesus is His body. You see everyone in Christ who’s walking on planet earth makes up the body of Jesus. That’s you, and that’s me. The Lord teaches us in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 that we are the body of Christ. We are His arms and His legs, His eyes and His ears, His feet and His hands. The body of Christ is my neighbor down the street who attends church on the other side of town. The body of Christ is my own church family and is Andrew’s church family. The Lord in his grace and mercy has inspired many to help Andrew and his parents, Gabe and Charise, with the challenges before them. A few weeks ago the church elders requested that they be permitted to anoint Andrew with oil and to pray for his healing, so after Bible study on a Wednesday night we met with the elders and they did just that. They also gave Gabe and Charise a generous financial gift. They’ve also been the largest contributor of yard sale items by far. And many others from Christ’s body also contributed generously. Some have even provided a place for Gabe, Charise, and Andrew to stay during examinations at several children’s hospitals around the Western United States.

You know, this isn’t an isolated incident. Churches and Christians all over the world do this kind of thing all the time. But it’s nearly always done quietly, with humility, so we usually don’t hear about it. But it happens all the time.

In the midst of this difficulty, my family is so blessed that I just had to share it.

God is good.

It’s so good to be a part of the body of Christ.

Lord, thank you — for everything.


1 Corinthians 12:12-30

 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.


References:

Biblegateway

Genesis 21:22-34 What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?

How To Be Happy

Read Genesis 21:22-34

Ripped Off

Abimelek the king of Gerar and his top general Phicol approach Abraham and say to him, We recognize that God is with you in everything you do. So swear to me here before God that you won’t deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants.

It’s no wonder that Abimelek is asking Abraham to swear that he wont’ deal falsely with him. A few years ago Abraham told this same Abimelek that Sarah was his sister. So Abimelek took Sarah into his harem. But God revealed to Abimelek the truth that Sarah is Abraham’s wife. Thus Abimelek narrowly averted sinning against the Lord which, the Lord informed him, would have cost him his life. (See previous post about Abraham and Abimelek)

Abimelek continued, I have treated you well all this time that you’ve resided here in my kingdom as a foreigner. Show to me and my country the same kindness I’ve shown you.

And Abraham responded, “I swear it.”

Then Abraham brings up a sore subject, a delicate matter, a touchy issue with Abimelek. He complains to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized.

Abimelek responds, This is the first I’ve heard of it. You’ve never said anything to me about this before and I don’t know who might have done it.

So Abraham, to demonstrate his commitment to the treaty and to demonstrate his good will toward Abimelek, brings to Abimelek sheep and cattle. So the treaty is solidified. The deal is sealed. It’s done, these two powerful men have entered into the treaty with one another. Then Abraham does something unexpected.

Abraham’s Wisdom and Grace

He sets apart seven lambs from the flock and gives them to Abimelek.

What’s with these? Abimelek asks.

And Abraham replies, These seven lambs are a witness that I dug the well that your servants seized.

Now if Abraham dug the well it was his. So why, after he already gave Abimelek flocks of sheep and cattle, did Abraham give him seven lambs as “a witness” that Abraham dug the well?

Abusive Cop

Yesterday I participated in a class that teaches you how to communicate with people on the street in a way that encourages cooperation and avoids the need for physical force. I heard a story about a new police officer who, on his first day on the job, caught someone speeding. He made a traffic stop that went something like this:

“License and registration please.”

“Listen, I know my rights. I don’t have to give you my license and registration.”

“Sir I need you to step out of the car.”

“Listen you !@#$  %^&*^$!, I’m not doin it! As a tax payer I’m your boss — I pay your !@#$%^&* salary!”

This new cop couldn’t believe it. He checked his uniform, it looked good. He checked his boots, they were shiny. He checked his police cruiser, it looked good, the light bar was on. He checked his badge, it was on right side up.

Why isn’t this guy complying?

Then this brand new cop said, “Sir, step out of the car. I won’t ask you again!

Do you see what happened here? The new cop and the driver of the car are both backed into a corner. Because of the cop’s statement that “I won’t ask you again!” this situation is destined to go sideways. Not surprisingly, the driver of the car didn’t comply. The next thing that happened was that the new cop pulled him through the window, arrested him, and took him down town to HQ. The driver of the vehicle wasn’t given a graceful way out. And as a result things turned ugly.

By the way the new cop’s boss, the Police Chief, called him into his office the next day for what the new cop thought was going to be an atta-boy. Well it didn’t turn out quite the way he expected. He was, to put it gently, directed to find a way to verbally persuade subjects to cooperate.

Wisdom For You And For Me

But what about Abraham? Here he is in this situation where he dug a well, a large investment in that area at that time. His men may have dug who knows how many dry wells before finding this one. And they didn’t have backhoes or drilling rigs in those days. So it’s a huge deal for someone to take over a well as Abimelek’s servants did. So what does Abraham do?

Abraham, the one who took his army of 318 men and rescued Lot from the armies of four kings, Abraham goes after the servants of Abimelek and takes them out, right? Abimelek’s servants seized the well so Abraham mustered his servants and seized it right back, correct?

Nope.

Abraham didn’t fight with Abimelek’s servants. Abraham decided to take a different approach.

You see, I think that Abraham may have recognized that Abimelek was in a tight spot.

It may have been that his servants were telling him, No way, Abraham didn’t dig that well, we did! He’s lying!

So if Abimelek gives the well back to Abraham, Abimelek’s servants might react, You believe that foreigner over us? You, our leader and master, have pulled the rug out from under us! You’re not backing us up!

So instead of fighting Abimelek or insisting on Abimelek giving back control of the well, Abraham provides a graceful way out. He gives Abimelek seven lambs so Abimelek can tell his servants that the well has been purchased. Abraham gets his well back. Abimelek’s servants save face. Abimelek avoids contention within his ranks. And all’s well.

“But that’s not fair!” You might be saying.

“Where’s the justice?” You might be thinking.

“He’s letting Abimelek’s servants off the hook!” You might be protesting.

You know what I’ve learned? Every wise person I know, finds some means of providing a graceful way out for those with whom they have an issue.

And you know what else? It’s not our job to meet out justice anyway. It’s our job to love God and to love people. It’s God’s job to meet out justice.

Didn’t Jesus tell us “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  And If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)

If you’re a Christian, and you’re not a cop, then it’s not your job to come down on people.

Give people you’re in disagreement with a graceful way out. You’ll be happier, people will be more cooperative toward you, and you’ll have healthier relationships.

Abraham was about relationships.

How To Be Happy

The most comprehensive longitudinal study in history is a research project called the Grant Study. In the Grant Study, 268 Harvard graduates (including John F. Kennedy by the way. His file is sealed until 2040) have received regular medical exams, taken psychological tests, returned questionnaires, and sat for interviews for the last 72 years or until they died. The files holding the data are as thick as unabridged dictionaries.

The man who’s been thoroughly analyzing these files for the last 44 years is Dr. George Valliant. Not long ago he was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?”

Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” ( What makes us happy? The Atlantic, June 2009 )

The scriptures confirm that statement.

The Bible is about relationships.

Jesus told us that all the law and all the prophets are summed up in these two statements: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Lord’s whole thing boils down to that. It’s about relationships with people. It’s about your relationship with the person of God and your relationships with other people.

Nothing else matters.

Nothing.

“Love God and do what you will.”

Saint Augustine


Genesis 21:22-34

At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”

Abraham said, “I swear it.”

Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.

After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.


References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Jon Courson

What makes us happy? The Atlantic, June 2009

Image via klaasjan – Creative Commons