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?

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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

The Grass is Always Greener…

Genesis chapter 13, we find Abram and his family leaving Egypt heading to Negeb (the dry land south of Judah). Abram had A LOT of stuff, including riches and livestock. Now the thing about livestock is that they need a lot of space to graze and live. As they were setting up camp, it became apparent that the land couldn’t support Abram (with all of his possessions and livestock) and Lot (his nephew who was traveling with his own possessions and livestock). It was like having two large families try to share a studio apartment, there just wasn’t enough space.

Strife (conflict/fights) started breaking out between Abram’s camp and Lot’s camp. Abram told Lot that family shouldn’t be fighting, so he told Lot that they needed to separate, but that he would give Lot whatever land he wanted. Lot decided to head to the lusciously green land of Sodom and Gomorrah (let’s take note of this appealing to the eye land for a later chapter) and they separated. So Abram settled in Canaan and Lot went East.

Now, the text tells us that the men of Sodom were wicked and big giant sinners against God. In other words, they were the bad guys in just about any movie you can think of. You know the guys who twist their mustache before doing something stupid and you just want to punch them in the face? These were those guys. More on them later.

Anyways, God went and talked to Abram after he separated from Lot. God told Abram that all the land that Abram sees is going to be his and his offspring’s (note – he still doesn’t have kids yet and he’s older that 75 years old at this point). God tells Abram that he will have so many offspring that he won’t be able to count them. After their talk, Abram moved his tent to Mamre (a land of oak trees) and built an alter to the Lord. And that’s where we leave this chapter.

Sometimes we have to separate ourselves from people we love for the sake of keeping the peace and expanding the kingdom. When you have such a large camp and someone you’re traveling with also has a big camp, there might not be enough resources for you both to stay in the same place. Assess your situation and make sure your not cramped into a space that’s causing you to fight. The thing I love about how Abram resolved this situation is that he loved his nephew so much that he let him have his pick of the land. He gave Lot the choice of the best place in all the area to go and dwell and Abram took what was left over. Abram was a peacemaker.

The great part of this story is that God blessed Abram after this. Abram gave up the better land and God told him that ALL of the land would belong to him and his family. Isn’t that just like God to bless us back double when we’re obedient to let go of the little things? Be encouraged, if God is asking you to give something up, it’s so He can make room to give you something so much greater.

Adventure Time at 75!

In Genesis chapter 12, we are introduced to Abram and Sarai (later named Abraham and Sarah) a married couple who are in their 70s. They had already lived 7 decades worth of life in Ur (a wealthy land) and were now about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. God came and spoke to Abram and made him a promise. He said, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

Basically, God said I need you to go to a new place away from the land and the people you know to do something new. If you do that, I will give you lots of land, you’ll build up a great nation, and anyone who is good to you, I’ll be good to, but anyone who is bad to you is going to get what’s coming.

So at 75 Abram packed up his things, took his wife (Sarai) and his nephew (Lot) and went to the land where the Canaanites were (Ham’s offspring – the ones who were cursed because of what happened with Noah… there was some tension there). God told Abram that He was going to give this land to Abram’s offspring (note that promise of offspring for later), but Abram kept travelling. There was a famine (lack of food and resources) in the land, so he decided to go on down to Egypt.

When he got to Egypt, he noticed that his wife was getting a lot of attention because she was good looking and he was scared that if they knew he was married to her, they would kill him. Being scared, he asked his wife to lie and say that she was his sister. Now Pharaoh liked what he saw, so he wanted to put a ring on Sarai. Thinking that she was Abram’s sister, he took her to his palace to be his wife. God didn’t seem to be to pleased with this, because he sent all kinds of plagues to Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh was not pleased.

Once Pharaoh learned what the truth was, he yelled at Abram for lying to him, gave him back his wife and told him to take his things and go. And that’s what he did. Abram wasn’t killed, it doesn’t say what God thought of the lying (it seems like He was mad about the potential adulatory part though because – the plagues), and Abram and his family got to keep all their possessions. And that’s how we end chapter 12.

I think the takeaways from this are that God can use you at any age. At 75 Abram left all that he knew to start over, he just had to be willing to go. The same is true for us. At any age, if we are called to a new journey, we just need to be willing to pack up our things and go. That being said, we need to remember God’s promises and not get scared away from what we’re supposed to do.

God promised Abram that he would have land, have a nation, and that people that were good to him would be blessed and those that were bad to him would be cursed. Pharaoh experienced that first hand with the plagues. So why did Abram fear that he would be killed when he went to Egypt? It’s simple – doubt.

Abram (like most of us – me in particular) doubted the promise of God. Maybe it was because people hadn’t followed through on their promises to him over his 75 years on the Earth, maybe it was because God gave his promise and Abram expected the promise to come out of a microwave like some golden holy Hot Pocket ready to consume, or maybe Abram doubted that God could use someone like him. We don’t know the reason, but he doubted for sure.

Just like Abram, we doubt what we heard too. We doubt our callings, especially in the waiting period. But can I give you a great revelation that I had the other day? A homemade meal that takes all day to cook and heats the house up to a million degrees and makes you sweat and causes your stomach to grumble during the preparation process and makes you think about food ALL DAY LONG tastes a billion times better than a hot pocket. I’m not saying that God can’t move quickly on the promises He has given you, but what I am saying is that if He doesn’t move quickly it’s just because He is preparing something that will taste delicious and just needs a little more time in the oven. Be encouraged, He keeps His promises!!

The Universal Language of Confusion

Genesis chapter 11 opens with the building of a great city, Babel. Everyone spoke one language and worked together to build a great city with a giant tower that would reach to the heavens and place them on the same level as God. They wanted to make a name for themselves, they wanted to be famous, but God was not having this. He came down to see the tower (meaning that it didn’t reach the heavens) and was displeased. Seeing what man was capable of (both good and evil), He made them all speak different languages so it would be harder for them to work together.

Have you ever been working on something for your own glory and come up against a brick wall? I know I have. Almost every time I lose sight of God’s plans for me and I start working on my own plans for wealth or success, something seems to get in the way and my plans go down in flames. In the moment I am very frustrated and disappointed, but when I take a step back, I see how the things I have achieved in life and the path that God has me on are far better than the plans I made for myself.

After the story of the great city destroyed by language barriers, chapter 11 continues the genealogy account showing us the family lines from Noah to Abram (later Abraham, the father of Israel). This is a set up to show how the Israelites came from the lineage of Noah, originating back to Adam in the Garden. It’s a precurser to the story that is to come.

It’s easy to skip over the names and generations listed in this chapter (or any other one) because it’s not action packed and doesn’t always hold our attention, but can you imagine how crazy our lives would be if it was non-stop action? You would be praying for a break and you might miss some important information along the way. All of this is leading to the story that God wants us to tell. The story of His people. The story of your people. The story of you.

Be encouraged, your story has just begun and yet there are generations before you who have lived life, shared their wisdom and prepared the way for you to live the life God designed especially for you.