Saturday, January 26, 2019

Emotionally conflicted God

God is consistent in character. Consistent character is definitely the meaning of the "God does not change" statements in the Bible (1 Samuel 15:29; Numbers 23:19; James 1:17). Nevertheless, God experiences emotions and sometimes those emotions are conflicted.
Jeremiah 12:8
My heritage has become to me
like a lion in the forest;
she has lifted up her voice against me—
therefore I hate her.

Jeremiah 31:3
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Well, what is it? Does God hate God's people or does God love God's people? The answer is that God sometimes has a love-hate relationship with God's people. God's actions in history have betrayed both relational passions toward God's people.
Jeremiah 10:24
Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure;
not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing.
Jeremiah realized that God is sometimes so angry that, if God punished his people during that angry spell, it would be the end of them. God needs a cooling off period before punishing. Similarly, we humans should cool off before we perform any punishment to our own children.

How can we accept a God who is sometimes emotionally conflicted? The reason we should accept this God is:
  • because God is consistent in character and faithful to covenant/promise.
  • because the God of the Bible is the only God that exists.
  • because a responsive God holds to account the actions of those God loves.
The less we are committed to covenant relationship with God, the more arbitrary God's emotional disposition toward us may seem. God has positioned God's self into a divinely vulnerable position because God is totally committed to relationship. We are the ones who wander away from God. In a relationship, the one who is most committed to it is the one most vulnerable to grief and pain. God has exposed God's self to that kind of damage. Would we renew our own promisses to be faithful to God?

Does this revelation about God's emotions bring God down to the level of humans? No. We need to be careful about assuming God is just like us. It is true, however, that we are a lot like God. It means something to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Humans experience emotions that originated at the divine level. Emotions are not in themselves evil. I am even talking about negative emotions like anger and jealousy. The question is if your emotions control you or if you control yourself while experiencing these very strong emotions. God works to prevent God's motions from ruling God just as we are expected to prevent our own emotions from ruling ourselves.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Genesis 24: Looking for a sign from God

Gen 24:11-15
He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water; it was toward evening, the time when women go out to draw water. And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Let the girl to whom I shall say, ‘Please offer your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”
Before he had finished speaking, there was Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, coming out with her water jar on her shoulder.

Why don't my prayers for a sign ever get answered? Why do some people see signs everywhere when they are no signs at all?

Part of the answer may have to do with the fact that, in this case, God was interested in who Isaac married and (as the servant mentioned in his prayer) God was invested in the long term vocation of Abraham's seed.

It is noteworthy that God did answer the servant's prayer but not in the way it appears on the surface of the text.

The servant's prayer asks for God to chose the girl who responds in a particular way to a request for a drink. The prayer does not ask for the girl chosen by God to respond in a certain way to a request for a drink.

When Rebekah responds in the prescribed way, the servant hopes God will choose her. Evidently, through some prophetic means, the servant is able to determine that Rebekah is indeed the girl for Isaac (Genesis 24:21).

Genesis 24:67
Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Notice the order of the events that sealed the union of Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac
(1) took her to bed,
(2) "took her" as his wife,
(3) loved her.
The order is a nice order and actually the typical order even in western marriages. In the "dating" phase, couples typically believe they are in love; but successful marriages include a period of growing in love which is more lasting than the emotional high that dating couples feel. Isaac experienced the same marital love that all Christian marriages should pursue.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Genesis 23; Bereavement

Abraham's request for a place to bury Sarah is quite poignant to me.
"I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying place, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight." (Genesis 23:4).
Here are some points to be noted:

* Dead Sarah belonged to Abraham.
* Abraham managed to bury Sarah in property that now belonged to Abraham.
* Death separated Sarah from Abraham.

After a time of grief, it was time for Abraham to let go of his dead wife. It was necessary for Abraham to accept his loss. Abraham expressed his grief but not over an extended period of time. He would cherish her memory. He also needed to get on with the practical matter of setting her remains to rest. He needed to bury her away from his sight. She needed to be buried in a place of her own in order to help the living to remember her.

Since Abraham now owned property in the land of his sojourn, he was moving toward fulfillment of the divine promise that Abraham's seed would inhabit that land (Genesis 15:17-21).

Death, by definition, is separation. We can observe separation in this account of Sarah's death. Abraham deeply felt her separation from himself.

Sin results in spiritual death. In the book of Romans, death is all about loss of hope, judgment and separation from God (Romans 5:12, 18, 21; 6:23).

Death is always grievous; but to believers, there is hope of being reunited in the next life (1 Thessalonians 4:13); so there is some measure comfort for those who grieve.