Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Genesis 22: God learns

As much as many theologians want to reject the notion, God learns the core of a person's character through testing.1 Any of us who have lived a few years know that a person does not really know the content of his/her own character until it is tested. We learn through experience to never make claims like "I would never do that" or "If it were me, I would... fill in the blank." We do not know the truth of those statements until we are tested.

Guess what. God does not know the truth of those statements either, until we are tested. We must not pass over the critical language of God ( = The Angel of Yahweh2):
Genesis 22:12, NRSV
He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Note the mix of first and second person. This "angel of the LORD" is reporting what God knows and what God just learned.

The only way this passage makes sense is that God knew something after an event that he did not know before the event.

There is a little saying that goes like this: I'm not a judge of the sheep but I am a fruit inspector (Matthew 7:15-20). God is also a fruit inspector.

I leave you with some questions to ponder today.
Genesis 22:3
So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.
Abraham's early start shows his determination to fulfill the requirement of the oracle. How did Abraham know this was a communication from God and not Satan?
Genesis 22:5-6
Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
How did Abraham know this? Does Hebrews 11:17-19 clarify or obfuscate?

1 More passages on God testing people: Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:3; Judges 3:1-4; 2 Chronicles 32:31; Psalm 139:23

2 On the Angel of Yahweh = Yahweh, which is usually true, cf., Genesis 22:15; 16:7-13; Exodus 3. But sometimes the angel is more like an aid or ambassador, cf., 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 1:7-17; 12:8.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Genesis 21: Wisdom of women; How God acts in history; God's tender heart

There are several neat nuggets of impact in Genesis 21.

Nugget 1: Us men ought to embrace women as sources of wisdom. In Genesis 21:12, God tells Abraham that Sara's word is the voice of wisdom. Obey it. Obviously, not everybody, man or woman, is wise; but there is wisdom in both sexes. Never close your ears to anybody's thinking based upon their sex (gender). If men will not listen to the wisdom of women, they are limiting their available wisdom by half (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6). It is not shameful for a man to obey a wise woman leader.

Nugget 2: God adapts his plans as reality changes. Ishmael was not in God's plan; but Ishmael was now a reality. God adapted (Genesis 21:13).

Nugget 3 has to do with how God responds to people's emotion. Check this out:
Gen 21:15-19
When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.
I am fascinated by what motivated God to act. All this sadness going on at the scene and God responds to the crying of the boy! It is interesting that God heard the voice of somebody who was NOT praying and God responded to it. We have seen this kind of sensitivity in God in at least two other places in the book of Genesis: Genesis 4:10; 18:20 (c.f., Deuteronomy 15:9; 24:15)! God is tenderhearted. God is sensitive to people's sadness.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Genesis 20: Ministry of reconciliation

Gen 20:6-7
Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”
It is fascinating that God tells Abimelech, a man of integrity, to have Abraham, who is showing lack of integrity, to pray for him.

It the duty of all believers to pray intercessory prayers for others.

It was the responsibility of a prophet not only to warn but also to plead with God for mercy (Jeremiah 18:20; Amos 7:2, 5; Ezekiel 22:30; Isaiah 62:6).

Our own intercession for the world must include persistent work to reconcile the world to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21;  1 Timothy 2:1-2), even if it feels hopeless and if we feel unworthy.

Genesis 19: God's announcements are rarely the last word

Two angels (not three) entered into Sodom as they intended to investigate the truth about the cries Yahweh had heard about the city (Genesis 18:21). This chapter evidences a feature of the divine that is easy to miss.
Gen 19:17-22, NRSV
When they had brought them outside, they said, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.” And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords; your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” He said to him, “Very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” Therefore the city was called Zoar.
The divine action against the cities of the valley had been determined. The judgment was going down in a determined way. Then, with Lot's input, the determined future was altered on the fly.

The God of the Bible reserves the right to alter his plans as situations change. When God announces his plans, the announcement is rarely the last word (Amos 3:6-8).