Where You Belong–Thoughts on Genesis 15

 FullSizeRender.jpgI was reading this chapter this morning as part of my daily reading plan. I love this chapter. I love how at the very start of human history faith is what saves us. And how one second after Abraham’s belief is counted to him as righteousness, he questions God with a doubtful, “How can I know it’s true?” And how God’s gracious response to that ever-present human tendency toward doubt is He makes a covenant with Himself while the recipient sleeps. It’s all Him.
But something jumped out at me that I hadn’t noticed before.  After Abraham, the father of the faithful, who was just counted righteous for believing God and then in the next breath says, “Prove it.” After that, God answers him:
“I am the LORD who brought you out…”
When I read those words I don’t associate them with Abraham.  I recall Moses and Israel and the great Exodus from Egypt.  Deliverance from slavery through the wilderness and eventually triumphal entry into the Promised Land.  And an annual Passover to NEVER EVER FORGET, “I am the LORD who brought you out…”
But here we are, hundreds of years before that great Bringing Out, and God is telling Abraham the same thing.  It’s all ultimately His story into which He invited Abraham.  And Abraham’s chapter– it started way back when when God brought Abraham out.
And I thought, that’s just like God, always bringing His people out.  Out from bondage. Out from sin. Out from loneliness. Out from fear.  Out from wherever we don’t belong and leading us into wherever we do belong.
And how can I not also think of our two new boys? They too are being led out and being led in.  This ancient story is made new for their lives.  Everything familiar is in the rearview.  But the future, where God is leading them, as difficult and scary as it may be, is love, and family, heritage and belonging.
And for all of us, it is beneficial to stop once in awhile and look back. Look at our history. We’ve been brought out from someplace and been brought into someplace.  Do we see the hand of God in our bringing out?  Do we trust Him as He is writing us into His Great Story?  Even if at this moment we are in a wilderness?  His story is a story of deliverance. Always delivering. Always moving each of us to where we ultimately belong.

Genesis 15 English Standard Version

God’s Covenant with Abram

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[c] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

My favorite: God’s Promises

My 12-year-old daughter recently informed me that she was going to read through the whole Bible, start to finish.  Now maybe a Christian mom like me should have done a happy dance and praised her for this lofty goal. Instead I found myself offering words of caution…in fact, trying to talk her out of it.

Hey–I want to encourage my kids to set spiritual goals that will end in success.  So a daily plan that breaks up some of the blah of the Old Testament with some Psalms and New Testament passages seemed, to me, more doable.  But she was insistent and I remained concerned.

The reason is, I’m in the middle of that goal myself.  Just finished Day 253 out of 365 in my Bible app daily reading plan.  But I’m “stuck” in Ezekiel.  Just as I was stuck in the books of Jeremiah and Leviticus and Numbers and others.  There’s just pretty big chunks of what you wouldn’t  call “Happy Texts.”

It can get boring.  It can get bloody.  And in the case of most of the book of Ezekiel, in the modern context of our chaotic world, it can get terrifying.

God is going to judge Israel for her sins. And then God is going to judge the whole freaking world for their sins.  And he uses bloodthirsty people to do his bidding and bring about this judgment.  Not the most encouraging start to my day lately.

But this morning, just like that, it got awesome.  Happy-Text-in-the-middle-of-all-that-bloodshed-awesome.

Then they will know that I am the LORD.

Then they will know that I am the LORD.

God wants to be known for who He is: loving, compassionate, and very, very, very holy.  Do you know that in the book of Ezekiel the phrase, “Then they will know that I am the LORD” appears 43 times?  All that He is accomplishing in world events, terrifying as it may be, is done to cause people to know Him as LORD. He wants to forgive us and save us and to be known by us. But as the rest of the book of Ezekiel shows, we will never earn it or even ever want it.  So, he will just have to do it himself.

Promises in Ezekiel

Promises in Ezekiel

“I will sprinkle clean water on you; and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:25-28 NIV.

Oh my heart breaks at the lengths to which He will go just to be known by us.  And my typically-stony heart breaks at the realization that I am just as likely to turn to all my idols to save me today as the people in Ezekiel that God will judge in wrath.  “Prone to wander. Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

But thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. Who has given me a new heart and a new spirit and has cleansed me through His Son’s sacrifice.  No more condemnation.  No more fear of wrath. Forever and forever. That’s a promise I can cling to no matter what the nightly news is.

And now hopefully I will remember to encourage my daughter to look for the threads of God’s holiness and grace throughout her upcoming reading about skin diseases and army censuses and slaughter.  And those glimpses into God’s promises may see her through to accomplishing her goal after all.