Gen devos 16-20

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 16
Food for Thought: God hears and God sees…
Remember the promise to Abram in Gen 12:2-3. The tail end of the promise to Abram in Gen 12 is that all the people on the earth will be blessed through him. While we know that Ishmael is not the child of promise (Gen 17:19), we do see God working to bless “outsiders.” Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant is an Egyptian. She is not of the covenant people of Israel, yet God in one of the most powerful scenes in Scripture is concerned about her and rescues her from the cruelty of the desert in Gen 16:7-14. Ishmael is Abram’s long awaited son, or is he?
Sarai was childless, and it was not uncommon in the ancient Mediterranean world for men to take multiple wives. For Sarai her identity was bound up as a woman with having children. She concocts a plan, that we may not like, but would have seemed reasonable to Abram and the folks of his day. Only, Sarai’s eagerness to fulfill God’s promise of descendants to Abram only adds tension to the unfolding of narrative of what God is up to in and through Abram. So, Hagar becomes Abram’s wife and becomes pregnant. But this news of coming baby for Hagar and not for Sarai serves to create hostility between the two women, and Hagar is mistreated and flees into the desert.
Alone, pregnant, and vulnerable we see Hagar being found by God. God and Hagar have quite a conversation. There are a couple of noteworthy things we need to take away from this chapter. First, God is concerned about the outsider. He is aware that she is pregnant, and Hagar learns that God has big plans for her and for her son, and will make her descendants numerous. As a matter of fact, God names the baby for her, Ishmael, which means “God hears,” further reiterating the power and concern of God. Secondly, while this may not have been God’s plan for a descendant for Abram, doesn’t abandon his plan to provide a child through Sarai and Abram. Thirdly, I love the exchange here between Hagar and Yahweh. Hagar gives God a new name. Hagar calls God, “the God who sees me.”
I am reminded that God sees us in our misery, and in our joy. He is aware of our needs, our hurts, and desires. God does work even in the most dreadful of situations. The next time you think your situation is hopeless, remember God sees.
Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?
Prayer:

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 17
Food for Thought: The name changing God…
Ninety-nine years old is a long time. In Genesis 17 Abram is well advanced in years. His wife is old, and still barren. Abram and Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant, have a had a baby – Ishmael. But still Sarai is childless, and God once again tells Abram and Sarai that both of them are going to share in the joys of parenthood. I love this. God is the God of possible. God shows himself to Abram, and Abram falls on his face in reverence and awe.
God reminds Abram that he is going to be father of many nations, God changes his name from Abram to Abraham. Abram meant something like exalted father (remember God had already promised that make his name great), and Abraham means father of many (And now through the change of his name God is telling Abraham that he will the father of many). Notice V. 5 is spoken by God as if he has already done it! God goes on to tell this old man, that he would be fruitful, that nations and kings would come from him, and God covenants to be his God, and his descendant’s God forever. If this wasn’t all, the land that Abraham had been walking in was one day going to belong to his ancestors.
In this very same chapter of these great promises to Abraham and his descendants, God gives the covenant of circumcision to Abraham and his descendants. Do you remember back in Gen 15, where Abraham had cut in halves the animals and then God passed through the cut animals, agreeing to keep up his end of the deal. Here in chapter 17 Abraham and his descendants get to do the cutting. Circumcision is a sign of God’s promises, it is sign of identification that visibly demonstrates an Israelite’s commitment to the ways of Yahweh.
God isn’t done in this chapter. He also changes Sarai’s name from Sarai to Sarah and promises to bless her with a child that they are to name Isaac. Isaac means he laughs. When Sarah was told that she would have a child she laughs. I would too. God is a God of possibility. Now listen, Isaac is the long awaited child of blessing. We have been waiting for this moment since chapter 12. But God doesn’t just discard Ishmael. God will bless him greatly, increase his numbers and make him prosper too. God is concerned about the outsider. We are reminded from Gen 17 that the new covenant people of God are to be a blessing to whole world (cf. Gen 12:3).

Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?
Prayer:

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 18
Food for Thought: Abraham and Sarah to old for kids?
I think it is interesting how chapter 18 opens, with the Lord coming to visit Abraham at his tent. The Lord shows up, and Abraham moves to be hospitable. What do you offer the Lord when he comes to your house? Feet washing, bread, a meal, curds and milk. These items were a display of Abraham’s hospitality. It was customary for hosts to offer these things to their guests. To have neglected to offer the customary greetings to a guest would have been social and morally reprehensive. Sometimes to have failed to offer the customary hospitality was an act of war. So, think about what is at stake here in this moment for Abraham. Peace, security, blessing, a future. Abraham does what we expect him to be doing, thankfully.
These three guests enjoy the greeting they are given, and then they give news of importance to Abraham and Sarah, now respectively 100 and 90 years old. The three guests tell Abraham that by this time next year, Sarah, his wife will be with child (18:10). Sarah standing near the entrance to the tent overhears the news that within a year’s time she will be with child. She does what many of us would do at learning that at 90 years old she would have a child. She laughs. I don’t blame her. After she laughs, she is questioned. She tries to deny it. It is interesting that Isaac’s name is play on words, and means he laughs. I wonder if Sarah laughed just at the mere sight of things. She recognized she was well past the age to bear children. But for a long time, God has been promising a child, and for a long time her and Abraham are holding on thin thread of hope in a promise that seems so far off.
In addition to learning about a coming son for Isaac and Ishmael, we also learn about the importance of prayer from Abraham, as well as reminded about the worldwide capacity of Abraham’s earlier blessing for the good of the world (cf. 12:3). Sodom and Gomorrah, are in danger of being wiped out. God shares his plan with his servant Abraham, and Abraham pleads for the towns. Notice Abraham’s boldness in his request of God. Abraham is not afraid to ask God to reconsider his plan. God allows his children this same kind of access and boldness.
Are we concerned about the towns we live in and the surrounding communities that we bring them before God? Do we know our neighbors well enough to talk them? Have you ever met them? Why not? What can you do differently in your everyday life to demonstrate a renewed commitment to meet the people you live near? Have you prayed for them?
If you are willing, commit to doing one of these things, and see what the Lord will do with your desire and effort.
Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?
Prayer:
Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 19
Food for Thought: Pass the salt…
Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction remind us of Gen 6 and the grief the Lord feels about the depravity of his creation and the condition of man’s heart. Sodom and Gomorrah are remembered for their wickedness. Gen 19 takes us inside the wicked place, when the two angels arrive. Lot also displays the right hospitality to these visitors as opposed to the wrong example of hospital being offered by the locals. Lot and Abraham are both held up as good examples of the hospitality that original audiences would have related with. Whereas the townspeople of Sodom and Gomorrah would have been the ultimate bad example. Their wickedness is the reason for their destruction.
The Lord destroys this wicked place, but provides grace to Lot and to his daughter’s, their husbands, and really anyone who will listen. But only Lot, his wife and two daughter’s make it out. Their instruction on the way out of town is to run and don’t look back. Don’t stop and take pictures, and put them on facebook. Once you leave, just keep going. Things are going well, until Lot’s wife turns and looks, and she is turned into a pillar of salt. Lot’s wife seems to desire the way things were more than what could be. Do we often do that with God? We are acutely aware of what he has delivered us from and through, and yet sometimes we keep our focus on what once was impeding our progress and growth? Be forward moving people, always looking for where the Lord is leading.
The final scene of Gen 19 is one that makes us uncomfortable. Lot’s daughters are aware of the desperation and the lack of a suitable male partner so they devise a scheme to get their father to father children through them. The children of these unions are neighbors that will plague Israel from the time of her inception to her days in captivity.
While we read these stories, especially of Lot’s wife being turned to salt. I can’t help but think of Jesus word to his followers that they are salt and light in this world. Salt was used for many different things in the ancient world; to preserve meat, used for cleansing, used in battle as a sign of total destruction. Jesus seems to be suggesting by this term that our usefulness in the world will be only as good as the light we reflect in this world. If we like Lot’s life choose to reflect darkness, we won’t have many uses in this world. But if on the other hand, we are shining the light of Christ in the workplace, our schools, in the marketplace, etc. our usefulness in the Lord’s service will not be used up.
Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?
Prayer:

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 20
Food for Thought: Sister wives in the Bible…
This chapter reminds us of an earlier account in Genesis in Egypt (Gen 13) where Abraham tells the Egyptians that Sarah is his sister. Here in Gerar, Abraham is back to his old tactics. And because of Abraham’s worries about his safety, Abimelek acts to take Sarah as his wife. Do you remember a while back, I had mentioned about the importance of the word “to see,” or “seeing,” in the Abraham narrative. Well, the question that Abimelek asks Abraham in 20:9 in the Hebrew is actually, “Abraham what have you seen?” Think about all that Abraham had seen in his journey of faith at this point in his life?
Called out of the land of Ur…
Promised to be a father of many nations, possess land that he didn’t own, a blessing to the world
Given a covenant, and watched God bind himself to it.
Had a son with Hagar
Reminded that the child of promise was coming
Given the covenant of circumcision
Reminded that the child of promise was indeed coming
Abraham’s story is no ordinary story. His story is extraordinary all because he was willing to take the first step when God called him in Gen 12. Abraham does what we wish we could do too. What big dreams, or passions do you have to use in the service of the kingdom? Over and over again we see God take ordinary, imperfect, sometimes broken and messy people and use them to accomplish his plans. Was Abraham or Sarah perfect? No, but they were available to the mission of God. With the key word of “seeing,” to be all over the Abraham narrative, we also learn that faith is about seeing too. Not necessarily physical eye-sight, but seeing with the heart, and with eyes of faith. God was in the details of nearly every part of Abraham’s life. I know that he is the father of the Jewish people, and certainly noteworthy in Christianity. This Abraham faith seeing, is also about seeing where God was heading and what he was doing in the situations that Abraham was involved in.
Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?
Prayer:

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About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
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