Salt in the Wound

In Genesis chapter 19, we see the two men that were with Abraham (spoiler alert: they are angels) go down to Sodom. Lot (Abraham’s nephew) sees the men and offers for them men to stay at his house. After some persuading, they agree. This is where things get crazy!

All the men of the town surround Lot’s house at night and demand that the new men staying with Lot come out so they can “have their way with them”. Lot tried to talk with the men surrounding the house so that they wouldn’t try to mess with the angels, he even offered up his two virgin daughters to the men in place of the angels (somehow that’s less messed up?). Those dudes weren’t having it though, especially from a foreigner like Lot, so they tried to attack Lot and break down the door to get to the angels. Before they could do that, the angels opened the door, snatched Lot and locked him in the house, then blinded all the men that were trying to attack them.

After that, the angels tell Lot to take all of his family and get out of the city, because stuff’s about to get real! God sent the angels to destroy the city because the place is too evil to exist. Lot told his son-in-laws what was up and they thought he was joking, so they didn’t move. The angels said “forget them, Lot you and your wife and daughters need to go now.” Lot was still lollygagging (not rushing, clearly not motivated by the impending doom) so the angels grabbed him by the arm and took him and his wife and daughters outside of the city so they wouldn’t go down in the destruction. The angels told them to escape to the hills and don’t stop or look back.

Lot was freaked out and didn’t think he could make it to the hills, so he asked the angels if he could run to a small town in the middle of nowhere that was closer instead. The angels agreed, but told him to hurry because they couldn’t start destroying things until he was safe.

When the sun rose in the morning, Lot and his family arrived at Zoar ( the small town). When they arrived, God sent a rain of fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah and all the cities of the valley, destroying them. Lot’s wife decided to look back on the place they had escaped (despite the angels’ instructions) and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Abraham woke up and saw all the fire and smoke from his house and thought of Lot and God’s promise to rescue him.

Eventually Lot left Zoar with his two daughters and moved into a cave in the hills (the hills that he told the angels he didn’t want to live in). Lot was getting pretty old and his daughters were getting older too. The daughters felt their biological clocks ticking and since God had wiped out all of them men in the land, they came up with a plan to get their father drunk and sleep with him. Both daughters became pregnant, the older one with a son named Moab and the younger one with a son named Ben-Ammi. This is where the Moabites and the Ammonites came from.

There is A LOT that went on in this chapter. Firstly though, if some dudes show up at your house and blind a whole bunch of people, then tell you to leave your house before you get destroyed with everyone else, maybe listen to them. Secondly, if you do evil stuff you’re going to get destroyed – so maybe don’t do evil stuff? Third, rules are in place for a reason. If someone says, hey don’t do this or you will die, don’t be surprised if there are some massive consequences when you do the thing you weren’t supposed to do. And lastly, if you raise your kids around a whole bunch of crazy, don’t be surprised when they act crazy.

I think the main point of this chapter is to show two things. 1) that God keeps his word. He spared Lot’s life like He said He would and He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah like He said He would. Everything He said He would do He did, so I think it’s safe to say that if He says He’s going to do something, He will. 2) actions have consequences. Being evil will consume you and get you destroyed. Being good could spare your life. And following directions will get you to safety.

God destroys the wicked places in our life for a reason. Sometimes we live somewhere (physically or metaphorically) that we are not meant to live in. Even though we may be a light in the dark place, if we weren’t assigned to be there, aren’t spreading our light (standing up to darkness) or if we are not connected to a source of light ourselves, we may be tempted to pick up some of the dark thought processes (ie offering the wicked men your daughters). When God destroys a place, he doesn’t want us to stop moving forward to our next place or to look back on the old place. He moved us out of there for a reason. He spared our life, so keep your eyes on the prize!

Be encouraged that He kept you from the destruction. You may not see the smoke or pillars of fire and He may have had to send angels to pull you out of there kicking and screaming, but the people who care for you (the Abrahams in your life who prayed that you would be spared) can see all of the smoke and know that you are safe.

Conversations with God

In Genesis chapter 18, Abraham is hanging out by his tent when God appears to him and then three men show up and Abraham runs to greet them and offers to wash their feet, feed them and let them rest a while in his camp. This is another example of Abraham’s hospitable nature, it’s ingrained in him, it’s part of his character. After Abraham sets an entire feast in front of his guests, they asked him where his wife Sarah was and Abraham says that she is in the tent [as in that say it wasn’t proper for wives to entertain company]. One of the men then tells Abraham that he will return to Abraham in about a year and that Sarah will have a son in that time.

Hearing the man speak, Sarah laughed to herself and was like, “Great, now that I’m all gray haired and old I’ll finally get pregnant and have a baby. How can that be?”

Then the man looked to Abraham and asked why Sarah laughed at his words and then said, “is there anything too hard for God?” Sarah tried to deny laughing because she was afraid, but he called her out on that. I would have done the same though, it seems almost like human nature to deny things when we are afraid because maybe if we don’t acknowledge that we messed up, maybe it will go away and not be an issue. Maybe no one will notice our shortcomings or missteps if we pretend they didn’t happen. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, did it make a sound? Well, I’m not sure if it made a noise, but I do know that it fell down and denying that by saying it didn’t make a sound doesn’t change the tree fell over. In the same vein, Sarah may not have made any sound, but she sure did laugh and God knew that.

After that exchange, Abraham walks with the men towards Sodom for a little ways. During this walk, God tells Abraham that they are headed to Sodom and Gomorrah to see what they have done because they were a city full of evil people doing evil things. The three men headed towards the city, but Abraham hung back with God for a minuet.

Abraham asked God if he was going to destroy the righteous people along with the evil people, take out the innocent because of the guilty. Abraham asks if there were 50 good people in the city, would God spare that place for the good people? Abraham says, “you wouldn’t do that, right God? Because you’re a good God.” He’s basically saying, I know your character God, you wouldn’t kill the innocent would you? And God responds by saying that he would spare the 50 righteous people. So then Abraham asks, well what if there were only 45 good people, would you spare them? And God says yes. Abraham asks a few more times until he gets down to 10 and asks what if there were only 10 good people, would you spare them? God again says yes. Then God went on his way and Abraham went back to his home and that’s where we end the chapter.

Now there is A LOT going on in this chapter and the action really breaks down into two parts. The first part is when Abraham invites the men to his camp and Sarah laughs at what God says. I find this particularly funny because God has been continually showing up for Abraham and Sarah and telling them that they’re promised to have a son, but because of their age and how long they’ve been waiting on this promise it seems impossible. I know that I’m the type of person where I’ll believe it when I see it. If there’s no evidence proving that you’re going to do what you said you were going to do, it’s not going to happen until it does IF it does. I would have laughed right along with Sarah, but here’s the thing: this wasn’t a friend or a parent or a random person telling Sarah what was promised for her future, this was the God of all creation. This was the God that got them out of some really tight situations. Once again, God reaffirms His promise and gives a timeline to it now, saying in about a year that promise will be fulfilled.

The second part of the chapter is where God and Abraham talk about the fate of Sodom. Now if you remember a few chapters back, Abraham’s nephew Lot lives in Sodom, so Abraham has a lot to lose if God destroys the city. I love how Abraham reminds God of God’s character before asking if He will spare the city. He was like “I know you, but also I want to make sure that I know you.” And I love that God is willing to have this conversation with Abraham. He’s willing to talk him through what’s going to happen, willing to answer questions, and willing to ease some of Abraham’s fears before He does anything.

Be encouraged! That God of this chapter is the same God of today. He keeps His promises, even if they seem impossible or take a long time to manifest and He is willing to have a conversation and answer questions about anything, including the things that scare us. I dare you to start that conversation with Him! His character hasn’t changed, so give it a shot.

Character Profile – Cain

Cain is first introduced in Genesis chapter 4 after Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Here are some quick facts that we know about Cain:

  • parents are Adam and Eve
  • 1st born son
  • brother to Abel
  • name means possession (i.e. belonging to someone/something, in this case Adam and Eve)
  • was a farmer
  • murdered his brother Abel
  • 1st person to become a murderer in the Bible
  • Cursed by God to be a fugitive and outcast
  • God put a mark on his body for people to identify him and know the curse on his life
  • lived in the land East of Eden
  • father of Enoch

Cain is mentioned in the following scriptures in the Bible:

  • Genesis 4 (entire chapter)
  • Hebrews 11 verse 4
  • 1 John 3 verse 12
  • Jude 1 verse 11

Character Profile – Abel

Abel is first introduced in Genesis chapter 4 after Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Here are some quick facts that we know about Abel:

  • parents are Adam and Eve
  • 2nd born son
  • brother to Cain
  • name means breath or vapor
  • kept sheep
  • offered his first born flock to God and found favor with Him
  • was murdered by Cain
  • 1st person to die in the Bible
  • 1st person to be murdered in the Bible

Abel is mentioned in the following scriptures in the Bible:

  • Genesis 4 (entire chapter)
  • Matthew 23 verse 35
  • Luke 11 verse 51
  • Hebrews 11 verse 4
  • Hebrews 12 verse 24

Still Waiting on a Promise

In Genesis chapter 17, we find a 99 year old Abram still waiting on a promise from God. The Lord has appeared to him 4 times before telling Abram that he will have a son with Sarah and yet he hasn’t seen it. In this chapter, we see God come to Abram and say “I am the God Almighty [most powerful/sufficient]”… God reminds Abram of who He is and then goes on to say that He’s going to keep His word to Abram by making covenant with him. We’ll remember from Genesis chapter 15 that a covenant is a legal agreement, but in this chapter, God is requiring for Abram to give something in the covenant – to be a participant.

God promises to Abram that he will have a son with Sarai, even in their late age. Sarai’s womb that was a tomb will now bring life, the place that was dead will awaken and the promise that God had with Abram all along will be fulfilled. As a sign of this change on God’s end, He renames Abram calling him Abraham [father of many] and He renames Sarai calling her Sarah [princess]. In giving them a new name, God gives them a new identity.

On the flip side, God asks Abraham to walk blamelessly and as a sign that he is one of God’s people, he and any male in his family needs to be circumcised [cut off their foreskin]. That is a permanent, everlasting sign that shows their promise to follow God. Is it painful? Yes, but all great promises come at a cost. This is serious dedication and at 99 years old, Abraham is all in. There’s no going back form this.

After this, God goes on to tell Abraham about his and Sarah’s son and Abraham starts laughing. He laughs at what God says in a yeah right kind of way. Because of this, God tells Abraham to name his son Isaac [he laughs]. God finishes up talking to Abraham by reassuring him again that he will be a father to many nations.

At the end of the chapter, Abraham and all his male servants and his son Ishmael are all circumcised.

There are 2 things that speak to me when I read this chapter. The first is that God can give you a new name and a new identity. The people down the street might have known you as Joe the Joke or Gloria the Gossip, but God can call you Father of Many, or Mighty Warrior, or Sweet One, or Beautiful, or Honored, Honest, Rich, Loyal or Loved and as long as you walk in that new name, that new promise, it doesn’t matter what the people down the street say. They just haven’t seen God’s promise on you life yet, they don’t know your new identity and they haven’t gotten their new identity yet. It’s like watching a superhero movie. Peter Parker knows that something happened after the radio active spider bit him, but everyone else around him still sees plain old Peter. Just because that’s what they see doesn’t change the fact that he’s a superhero. Remind yourself that the world might see who you used to be, but God turned you into a superhero.

The second thing that sticks with me is that God is willing to turn a dead place into a place that brings forth life. A womb has one job, and yet Sarah’s womb couldn’t get it together to produce children. It didn’t work right. It didn’t do what it was supposed to do. It was as dead as her hope. She honestly thought she would never birth a kid and at 90 years old, it’s hard to not think that that ship had sailed. But the most amazing thing is that God can take the things that are dead, buried, mourned for and forgotten about and He can bring them to life. If He promised it, He will make it happen, you just have to hold on to the promise. It might take 90 years to happen, but the dead things can come alive again. The dead place can produce life. The forgotten hope can be revived.

Be encouraged! God keeps His promises and He’s willing to remind you as many times as you need to that He will keep His promise. Sometime we need to do something to show our dedication in the process, we need to walk with God in this, but His promise is His promise. Just keep holding on, it will happen. God is faithful!

Pregnant with Doubt

In Genesis chapter 16, we find Abram and Sarai’s hope fading once again about ever having a child. We are reminded once again that Sarai has bore Abram no children and in this time of waiting for a promise that never seems to come true, Sarai gets the idea that she and Abram can still have a child if Abram sleeps with her handmaid Hagar. Sarai tells this to Abram and he listens to her – he goes along with this plan. It doesn’t say that Abram protested, expressed any opinions, struggled, nothing. It just says that Abram listened to his wife.

So Abram goes and sleeps with this other girl and gets her pregnant. Once his wife Sarai notices that Hagar is pregnant (which must have taken some time, it couldn’t have been immediate) she also noticed a change in Hagar. Hagar started looking down on Sarai and treating her poorly. Hagar was disrespecting the chain of command and that made Sarai angry.

Sarai went to Abram and told him how she felt and Abram was like “look this is your servant, handle it” so Sarai was SO mean to Hagar that Hagar ran away.

Upset, pregnant, probably lacking resources and scared, Hagar went off into the wilderness. An angel came to the wilderness looking for Hagar and began to talk to her about her situation. The angel asked her a very important question, ” where are you coming from and where are you going?” Once the angel heard her out, Hagar was given a blessing saying that she would have a multitude of offspring, but that her son would be a wild and crazy guy. The angel told Hagar to name her son Ishmael which means God hears. Then the angel instructed Hagar to go back to Sarai and submit to her.

Hagar called that place in the wilderness Beer-lahai-roi, meaning the well of the God who sees me, because God saw her in her place of affliction. She went back to Abram and Sarai and gave birth to Ishmael when Abram was 86 years old.

For me, this story touches a place deep in my soul. That place that is waiting for a promise that doesn’t seem to come. The promise that keeps getting told to me, the one I have heard many times and am waiting in anticipation, but I see nothing in my life that points to this promise coming true. Like Abram and Sarai, I have my doubts and sometimes I come up with my own plans to “help” God with His promise, but that never seems to work out. The amazing thing is that the promise is still a promise. God’s word for my life doesn’t change just because I can’t be patient. Abram and Sarai didn’t lose out on their promise just because they tried to figure out their own way of doing things, they just had some added complications to their blessing.

I also greatly appreciate how God dealt with Hagar. She wasn’t trying to mess up anyone’s blessings, but when she got blessed when someone else didn’t, she got a little arrogant. She treated someone she served poorly because she thought she was better than her. That led to some consequences and Sarai treated her poorly as a result. I don’t know what kind of relationship they had before, but even if it was just cordial and professional, that relationship was now broken and both sides were hurt.

Being extremely hurt, Hagar ran away, but God met her in that broken and lonely place and sent someone to talk with and listen to her. I love the question that the angel asks, “where have you come from and where are you going?” It’s a great self reflection question about where we’re at and what led us to get to this place and how are we going to get out of it. A lot of times brokenness, anger, mistakes and sin have caused us to run away to the wilderness, but God sees us and meets us in these lonely places. He will even bless us in our mess, but then He instructs us to turn back to that broken place and return with a different attitude.

Now I imagine that it was extremely hard for Hagar to go back to a broken relationship and submit. I bet it was extremely hard to go back to someone who treated her so harshly and stay in that place and not have content in her heart. I bet it was equally hard for Sarai to accept Hagar back into her presence after she treated her poorly and then seeing Hagar run away, but that’s the beauty of God. He calls us back to the broken places so the His glory can shine.

Now the text doesn’t say that Sarai welcomed Hagar back with open arms, but it also doesn’t say she backhanded her upon arrival. I imagine there was some awkwardness as they both tried to navigate the broken relationship, but I love that God sent Hagar back for the chance to make things right.

Be encouraged, God is the God who sees us. He will keep His promises to us and even if we mess up along the way, he will give us another chance to make things right. He is the God of many chances, so even if you are currently in the wilderness, if you were hurt, if you did the hurting, if you have doubt, if you messed up something so bad that you don’t think it can ever be fixed, know that God hears you and he will give you another chance to go back and try again.

A Dream and a Promise

In Genesis chapter 15, we find Abram having a vision from God. In the vision, God reassures Abram that there is nothing to fear, God is his protection (his shield), and that Abram shall be rewarded (meaning he did something worthy of a reward). Abram says to God, “look I don’t want a reward, I just want a child (remember that God promised him offspring? Abram remembers that too, but hasn’t seen anything…) but I still don’t have one. The closest thing I have is one of the dudes who works in my house. Is this really how I’m going to die, leaving all my stuff to that guy Eliezer?” Basically Abram said, I know You promised me this God, but I haven’t seen it yet. So God once again said that he would bless Abram with so many offspring that he wouldn’t be able to count them. Then God went on to remind Abram of all the good things He has done for him.

After that, God tells Abram to bring him some animals to be cut in half. Now this seems weird to us, but in Abram’s days, this is how people made covenants (agreements/legal contracts) with one another. Now as Abram is preparing everything for God to show up and make this covenant with him, birds of prey started showing up trying to get at the animals that were set aside for sacrifice for the covenant. Doesn’t that always happen when we are waiting in anticipation of a promise, something comes in and attacks it and we either have to defend our promise or roll over and let someone (or something) take it from us. Abram could have let the birds pick at the sacrificial animals and then not had anything set aside to establish his covenant, but his covenant with God was important to him and was something he honored so he protected it and shooed away the birds.

Before God signed on the contract’s dotted line, he put Abram into a deep sleep (the same kind Adam went into in Genesis chapter 2 when God took his rib to form Eve). In that sleep, God tells Abram of the future of his offspring: they will be slaves for 400 years, but then they will be set free and God would place judgement on their captors.

Then the sun went down and Abram saw the fire pass between the two halves of the sacrificed animals (the symbol of the covenant). God said to Abram that He would give his offspring this land. The covenant – the promise that God gave to Abram did not require anything of Abram or anyone else, it was just God’s promise to Abram and is the second covenant in the Bible (the first is with Noah). God promises that Abram will have offspring and that his offspring will have land. And that is where we end chapter 15.

The thing I really appreciate about this chapter is that Abram was very human. He told God what was really on his heart, what had been on his heart for years, that he wanted a child. Abram expressed doubt, even though God had spoken directly to this man three times previous to this chapter and said he would have offspring, Abram couldn’t see it and questioned it. OH BUT GOD! God swooped in on the scene and reminded Abram of who he was, what he had done for this man and then reaffirmed His promise with Abram in a way that Abram would understand (a legal binding contract – a covenant).

Sometimes when we are holding onto a promise for some time, it is hard to keep running in a direction when you don’t see any results. We get tired, we question God, we question ourselves and it is so easy to think that when we see the birds of prey circling up above that our promise is dead and we will never see the end result. Can I tell you from personal experience that when you see those birds circling, chase them away! They can’t attack your promise from God. And that thing in your life that looks dead, the thing that attracts those birds of prey might just be the sacrifice that God needs to reaffirm His covenant with you.

Be encouraged! If God said it, He will do it. It might take some time, but He will be the one to uphold His promise. And if hope is fading in the process, ask God to remind you of all the things He has done for you. If He promised you something before and He came through, won’t He do it for this promise too?

I Declare War!

In Genesis chapter 14, we find the first record of war in the Bible. This probably isn’t the first war in history, but it is significant to the text because it now involves one of God’s people. While the kings of the East defeat Sodom and Gomorrah, they take with them Abram’s nephew Lot along with a whole bunch of people. One of the people taken captive escaped and told Abram what happened. He was not pleased, so he gathered his servants (318 who were all trained to fight) and partnered up with some of the guys he lived with and went to war. Abram, the man always trying to seek peace, the one who lied to not be killed by Pharaoh, the one who gave up land to his nephew so there would be no fighting – that man is going to war!

Abram divided and conquered and took back all that was taken, including Lot. The king of Sodom was pleased and came out to meet with him, as did Melchizedek king of Salem and priest of the most high God. Melchizedek brought out wine and bread and blessed Abram, so Abram blessed him back with a tenth of everything (a tithe – more on that later). Then the king of Sodom offered Abram everything he had gotten in battle, but Abram had made a promise to God not to take anything. He told the king to reward the men who were with him with what they ate, but that he wouldn’t take anything.

Talk about boldness, integrity and honor! They go after his family, Abram fights and gets them back. They offer him spoils, but he honors his promise to God and takes nothing – and he tells them exactly why he’s taking nothing. There is no secret and Abram is not ashamed by his promise to God. God doesn’t get mad that Abram went to war, but I’m sure He would have if Abram hadn’t kept his promise or if he had kept quiet about why he wasn’t taking the spoils of war.

Now Abram is clearly the focus of the chapter, but let’s take a second to shine a light on Lot. This guy thought that he had picked the perfect land. It looked good, it was fertile, it seemed like the greatest place. I’m sure it felt like the greatest place until he got taken prisoner!

From this chapter we learn a few things. First, sometimes going after something based on looks alone can end with you being held captive. Do your homework, research some things and ask for guidance. Looking good and actually being good are two different things. Secondly, even the most peaceful ones sometimes need go to war in order to protect family and reclaim what God gave you or someone else. Letting evil win should never be an option.

Character Profile – Eve

Eve is first introduced by name in Genesis chapter 2 when the story of the creation of mankind is retold. Here are some quick facts that we know about Eve:

  • God created her from Adam’s rib
  • was made to be Adam’s mate
  • was the first woman on Earth
  • walked with God in the Garden of Eden
  • talked with a serpent that led her astray
  • ate of the forbidden fruit and was cursed to have worse birth pains and a desire for her husband (who would rule over her)
  • kicked out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying God
  • was only given the name Eve near the end of her time in the Garden of Eden (Adam named her)
  • mother of Cain, Abel, Seth and other sons and daughters

Eve is mentioned in the following scriptures in the Bible:

  • Genesis Chapter 2 verses 22-25
  • Genesis Chapter 3 (full chapter)
  • Genesis Chapter 3 verses 20-24 (now by name)
  • Genesis Chapter 4 (full chapter)
  • 1 Timothy 2 verses 13-14
  • 2 Corinthians 11 verse 3

Character Profile – Adam

Adam is first introduced by name in Genesis chapter 2 when the story of the creation of mankind is retold. Here are some quick facts that we know about Adam:

  • God created him from nothing/dust
  • was the first man on Earth
  • named all of the animals of the land and birds
  • partner/mate is Eve
  • walked with God in the Garden of Eden
  • ate of the forbidden fruit and was cursed to work the land for the rest of his life
  • kicked out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying God
  • father of Cain, Abel, Seth and other sons and daughters
  • was 130 years old when he had Seth
  • was 930 years old when he died

Adam is mentioned in the following scriptures in the Bible:

  • Genesis 2 (entire chapter)
  • Genesis 3 (entire chapter)
  • Genesis 4 (entire chapter)
  • Genesis 5 verses 1-5
  • 1 Chronicles 1 verse 1
  • Luke 3 verse 38
  • Romans 5 verses 12 and 14
  • 1 Corinthians 15 verses 22 and 45
  • 1 Timothy 2 verses 13 and 14
  • Jude 1 verse 14