Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
The three main characters.
Only three people; Abram, the righteous one, Sarai the barren wife and Hagar the Egyptian servant. It’s not hard to understand the humanity of these three people. That great cartoon philosopher, Pogo, said it all, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” Abram, Sarai and Hagar prove that everything old is new again. Without an interactive relationship with God and our faith we are like them; our own worst enemy. No wonder the modern day solution often is use any means, any person, any activity as long as it produces the result we want and think is right.
I wonder if our biggest sin is not really so much the “bad” stuff we do as the fact that while we’re not Godless, we’re not Godly either. We are carelessly busy portraying the one whose image we represent in our world as ineffective and of no practical use in real life. Could anything be worse than that? Thank God for Grace and time to grow. Thank God he’s given us Jesus, his Spirit and these Old Testament “saints” that are the mirrors we are meant to see ourselves in. Thank God for his Word and it’s promise that offers us the chance of a real image makeover.
Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.
Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord.
Lot must have heard throughout his life the oral history that spoke of the perfection and beauty of the land God had promised, and there it was. Did he remember those stories as he saw the Jordan Valley laid out before him? This new place that seemed be exactly what God had promised, so beautiful and good…except for one tiny little snag…the people of the area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord. Lot may have reasoned; “good land, good oral history, good faith, and…God promised…how bad could it be,” right?
I have been in that position of making choices in my life with that same kind of reasoning. Lot was caught in the very same tension of decision making as we are today. For the most part we assume “worst and clearly stupid” have been eliminated from our decision-making process because we now belong to God. We forget we are still vulnerable to being blindsided by our self-confident “how bad could it be?” mindset. We forget that while “how bad could it be” may look better than “worst and clearly stupid” it still looks pretty poor compared to best and wisest.
When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
• Think about this phrase: “Why are you so angry?”
We recognize and point to Cain as the first murderer but can’t quite comprehend why he was so angry. It’s like one finger of our hand pointing at Cain when there are three pointing back at us. Anger is an emotional word that is more easily denied in ourselves. We want to attribute to that emotion the higher level of violence of Cain’s sin. But how about these words: irritated; testy; grumpy, frustrated or even jealous? There’s the rub. How often does your emotional thermometer go THOSE places in a day?
How about when the cars turning left in front of you poke along and you get caught at the next red light; or there’s all those things spouses do that cause a surge, maybe only mental, of one of those emotions? It’s just so much easier to be shocked by Cain’s action than to think about, and name, the moments in our life and faith that we’ve been “irritated; testy; grumpy, frustrated or even jealous” because WE just didn’t want to do what’s right. Ouch! Every one of those moments in every day needs this reminder…”We will be victims of sin if we do not subdue it.” There’s an enormous difference between being “not Godless, but not Godly either.” It’s the difference between knowing faith facts and applying them. That difference makes all the difference in a life of faith.
Day 1 of my Snippet Slog Through the Old Testament. Not a scholarly verse by verse, chapter by chapter “slog” but what I believe God has in his mind for my mind.
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
• Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
I admit it, I’m defensive. Eve has become our first picture of what sinful, lustful, greedy AND manipulative looks like. No wonder I’m defensive.
There is no way to dispute the fact that Eve (and Adam) are NOT Godless. They’re right there with God, firsthand, face to face, in a perfect environment. This story is also our picture of the first chink in what it means to be Godly. That’s why it’s called “original” sin. They made it up!
It wasn’t like Eve had called Adam to dinner and served up a tasty dish without telling him where it came from. Remember that phrase: “who was with her?” I read more and look at this! Genesis 3:12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” That first picture of Eve? It’s the same as the first picture of Adam. This must be where the old saying “sin loves company” comes from.
I began what I call a timid [because I’m just me, not a scholar] and limited snippet [because what I read is often far less than a whole chapter] slog [because it’s hard] in the Old Testament last year. I wanted to explore the human identity of some of the main characters of the Bible that I pretty much skip over to get to Jesus. They often seem so remote to me but they’ve become heroic examples of what faith looked like in the “good old days;” days so much closer to the memories of God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of real people.
I wanted to look at them as people who didn’t always get it right the first time and see what happened in their lives. Some stayed faithful and learned from their mistakes and some just let their worry or anger destroy them. You know, people just like us. People knowing and believing God but held back by flaws, or maybe just indifference, from becoming what God created them to be. This is exactly where many of us find ourselves. This word journey is my attempt to see how God moved them, and still can move us, from being satisfied with being “not Godless, but not Godly either.”
I am absolutely convinced that there is a process God has designed for the purpose of revealing himself to those who care to look and listen. It involves his Word, the Holy Spirit and time. At least this is how it works for me. I read Scripture, I watch for the mental “stop sign” in those words that says “notice me.” Those are the things I copy and paste into my iPad journal from my online Bible. Yes, I’m a geek. I type, I think, I backspace [a lot] and then I think and type some more until there seems to be a completion of the thoughts I believe the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind. My journey with you with begins with these posts I call my Snippet Slog Through the Old Testament. I want to hear what God might have to say to you from what I think He’s said to me.
It brings a smile to my face to imagine that God can use that oft repeated cell phone phrase, Can You Hear Me Now, as an object lesson for me and I hope for you. I want to listen, I want to hear, but sometimes I just have to quit moving and stay in one place for good reception. I hope you’ll read these blogs and ponder them for yourself. One thing is absolute though, God is faithful to ask the question, “can you hear me now?”