Wow! What a week of reading this has been. Once again, we have heard God's promise of land and descendants given to Abraham. We have seen clear evidence of his up close and personal relationship with the Lord as he pleads with God not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if there are even ten righteous people there. Sadly, there were not ten righteous people there. The Lord does, however, save Lot, his wife and two daughters from sure and certain destruction. The rest of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed when the fire and brimstone fell. Lot and his daughters were obedient but his wife just couldn't bear the thought of not having one last look at the place and life she loved so much...and when she looked, she was turned into a pillar of salt. Disobedience always has consequences.
We also see Abraham once again pass his wife off as his sister out of fear for his life. And once again, we find those Abraham deceived giving him more livestock and servants. Plus, he received an offer to live wherever he wanted. To us this makes no sense. But what it does show us is that God can and does use all kinds of people to work out His plans and purposes. That doesn't give us license to intentionally commit sins thinking there will be no repercussions.
There is great joy when at 100 and 90 respectively, Abraham and Sarah welcome their first child, Isaac. His name means laughter. And who wouldn't laugh at the thought of people that old having their FIRST child. He brought them much joy and delight. And finally, the stigma that had followed Sarah all her life was removed. Their joy was tempered however, by the conflict with Hagar and Ishmael, Sarah's maidservant and her son by Abraham. He was the child of impatience on Abraham and Sarah's part. God would make a nation out of him as well but the conflict between the two sons...Isaac the son of the covenant and Ishmael son of the world...has been an issue to this day with the sons of Ishmael being the Arabs and the sons of Isaac being the Israelites. Sometimes consequences are very far reaching.
Abraham is severely tested when the Lord asks him to sacrifice his only son. But Abraham is obedient, holding on to the promise, it's fulfillment, and God's faithfulness. We look on as Sarah dies and we watch Isaac find a wife from the distant relatives, not the Canaanites. Abraham remarries after Sarah's death and has six more sons. But he left all he had to Isaac. Abraham lived 175 years. He is the only person in scripture whom God calls His friend. Isaiah 41:8
God appeared to Isaac and reaffirmed the covenant promise of land and descendants to him. And we watch as Isaac tells the same lies as his father. He too was afraid he would be killed because his wife Rebekah was beautiful and they would kill him to have her. Isaac and Rebekah have twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Esau was a hunter and Jacob a homebody and a schemer. Over time Jacob managed to buy or steal both the birthright and blessing that was due to Esau as the oldest son. Again, there is division between sons. The descendants of Esau become the Edomites who are perpetually at war with the descendants of Jacob, the Israelites.
Jacob flees the family home to seek safety from Esau and to find a wife from his mother's family. Along the way he is visited by the Lord in a dream, assuring him He will be with him. Jacob left home with only his staff. We will watch him return home with four wives, twelve sons and a daughter who are named, dozens of man and maid servants, plus thousands of head of livestock. He fell in love with Rachel who was his cousin and works fourteen years to earn her. Jacob who has been a deceiver is now deceived into marrying Rachel's sister Leah whom he does not love. In spite of all the family drama, God prospers Jacob. Eventually God appeared to Jacob in a dream and told him it was time to return home. That journey was perilous for Jacob because he would be forced to confront Esau who had threatened to kill him.
He made great preparations for the meeting, forgetting that God had promised to go with him and protect him. We don't look much different than Jacob sometimes. We forget too that the Lord goes with us and we make preparations out of fear. In this reading we see also the deaths of Rebekah‘s nurse, Isaac, and Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel.
Jacobs story is beginning to wind down and his favorite son Joseph moves to center stage. Through all of this we continue to see God's hand at work. He has made a covenant promise with Abraham and God will keep that promise. Through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we see God working. Now, as Jacob's family struggles with division, hate and envy we watch as God begins to use Joseph as the next link in the covenant promise journey.
Truth be told, the stories of the patriarchs don't always look much different than ours. We too know division and envy, maybe even hate or rivalry. But just as God continued to work in Abraham's family and beyond...He will work in ours. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Nowhere did He mention smooth sailing if we believe. But He will walk with us through whatever is happening in our lives...always.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W