Thursday, October 29, 2015

40 Old Testament Stories: Isaac & Ishmael

God had promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations.

Before God changes Abram's name to Abraham, his wife, Sarai, decides that God needs a little help taking care of things.

She sends her maid, Hagar in to Abram and she gives birth to a son, Ishmael. After Sarah had her own son, Isaac, she sends Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness, but God rescues them and brings them to safety.

Isaac is eventually the father of Israel.  Ishmael becomes the ancestor of 12 tribes too.  From the descendants of Ishmael come most of the nations in the Arab world today.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

40 Old Testament Stories: Abram changes his name

Some time after the covenant conversation - and after Sarai, Abram's wife takes matters into her own hands (more on that next week) God comes back to Abram and says, "If you will be trustworthy and walk in my ways, I will make you the father of many nations."

God identifies himself as either God Almighty or the God of the mountains.  The Hebrew can be read both ways.

God tells Abram that he is changing his name from Abram - which means exalted ancestor to Abraham - which means ancestor of a multitude.

This time God sets some conditions on Abraham.  His descendants must be circumcised (the male ones, that is).

God also changes Sarai's name to Sarah.  God tells Abraham that Sarah - who is now old - will give birth to a son who will be named Isaac.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

40 Old Testament Stories: God's Covenant with Abram

He's not Abraham yet, he's Abram.

He's had quite the life before God comes directly into his life.  He's gone to Egypt (and told everyone that his wife is his sister).  He's rescued his nephew.  He's been blessed by Melchizedek.

After all of this, God's word comes to him in a vision and tells him "Don't be afraid".  God usually starts his interactions with humans by telling us not to be afraid.  God also tells Abram that his reward will be great.

Abram answers back that he doesn't have any children, so what does it matter, God promises him that he will have as many descendants as the stars in heaven.

Notice that in this first covenant, Abram doesn't have to do anything.  God just promises that he will bless Abram.

Abram asks for some proof, so God cuts a covenant with him, by cutting some animals in half and then God makes some more promises and has flame pass between the halves of the animals.  God promises specific land to Abram and his descendants.  This is the origin of "The Promised Land"

Thursday, October 8, 2015

40 Old Testament Stories: Tower of Babel

This story is often treated as an "origin myth".  In other words, like many stories in other cultures, it is read as telling the story of how there came to be different languages.

I think that it is as much about the danger of human arrogance as it is about how there came to be French, Spanish, English, German etc...

This story happens between the story of Noah and the Ark and the beginning of the Abraham stories.

So on one end of it we have God running out of patience with human wickedness and destroying most of life with a massive flood.  On the other end of the story we have God entering into a Covenant with a specific human being and his descendants (tune in next week for more on that).

So, shortly after people have just begun to recover from the flood, they try to build a city and, through their own power, to secure their future.  In other words, to protect themselves from the will of God.

This is a common theme in scripture - watch out for thinking that you have any real power, God doesn't react will to human arrogance.

Notice, again God talking to himself in the third person: "...Come, let's go down and mix up their language ..."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

40 Bible Stories Every Christian Should Know: Noah & the Ark

The story of Noah is one of the first stories where we see God changing his mind.

This is one of the reasons that it is one of my favorite stories.  The other is that it has all kinds of animals - which I really like.

But the story is actually about God looking at human beings and giving up.  He can't believe that humans have made such a mess so he decides that he wants a clean slate.  However, he has this guy Noah and his family who are following God's will and who God can't over look.

So God figures out a way to save Noah and a representative sample of his creatures.

This is the first time that we see the number 40 appear - 40 days & nights in the ark - pay attention and we will see this number again.

My favorite part of the story is the part where they come out of the ark and God puts a rainbow in the sky as the sign of a promise that he will never again destroy the world by flood.  Notice that he doesn't promise to destroy the world again, just not to do it that way.

The question for us, other than why we think this is an appropriate story for children, is how are we being stewards of the world that God has made?  How are we using or misusing God's creation?