Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bible in One year: Day 8

Genesis 20, 21, 22 and Matthew 6:19-34

The readings for today are some of the most popular and most troubling readings in the scriptures. I pray that God grants us all the ears to hear and eyes to understand these passages today.

Genesis 20

Abraham, a newly minted child of the covenant, cannot help himself. In today's reading he goes back to his old ways of doing things. Once more he plays the "she's my sister" card in order to save his own skin. My heart hurts for Sarah once more in this account. Abraham hands her over to be used by Abimelec.
This time God intervenes more directly telling Abimelec in a dream that he is sleeping with a married woman and that God will punish him for this action. This is news to Abimelec who confronts Abraham and is given a "She is my sister, and wife" response that to me is a complete lack of owning up to the situation. The writer goes on to tell us that all of Abimelec's wives and slaves had become barren because of his relationship with Sarah. (An interesting if not strange tidbit)

Genesis 21

The much-anticipated birth of the child of the covenant is celebrate in this chapter of Genesis. Isaac, child of laughter comes into the world with much celebration. Abraham celebrates fatherhood at the tender age of 100. Abraham fulfills the sign of the covenant having Isaac circumcised at eight days old. This reading is the picture of family happiness we have been hoping Sarah and Abraham would receive. At least if we look at the close up view.
The wide-angle lens picks up a much different family portrait. The camera pans out and we see that Sarah is still jealous of Hagar and her son Ishmael. This jealousy has gone underground during the pregnancy and birth, but during the infancy and toddler-hood of her son, Sarah sees that Ishmael is no longer a small child, but growing into a young man. She once more, sends Hagar and Ismael out into the wilderness in order to secure her son's place in the family.
I cannot begin to imagine the day-to-day life of a woman such as Sarah or Hagar. My life is more than a world away. I want to say that I could never be as cruel or as self-serving as Sarah, but I know that is not the case. I've just never been put to that test. What I find really interesting about this reading is God's action.
God shows Hagar water when she is convinced Ishmael will die. God offers comfort and solace. In verse 20, we are told that "God was with the boy and he grew up." God did not abandon Hagar and Ishmael even thought Abraham and Sarah cast them out. Likewise, God does not abandon any of God's children who may feel rejection at the hands of fellow believers.

Genesis 22

This reading is perhaps one of the most difficult for me to understand. I am a mother. I have three precious beautiful children. I cannot imagine for an instant sacrificing them to God. Even if God told me to do so. I'm not sure what to do with this passage.
Some commentaries I have read state that God was testing Abraham's loyalty. Perhaps the boy had become so important to Abraham that he was no longer trusting in God's promises but was instead trusting in the life and legacy he knew his son would provide. Others say that Abraham knew God would not really make this claim and going along with it was Abraham's way of testing God. The evidence given for this is that Abraham tells his son that God himself will provide the lamb for the offering.
What do you think these passages have to tell us about God and our relationship with God?

Matthew 6:19-34

Catchy phrases from Jesus! Many of these passages are "Meme worthy", meaning they are the kinds of statements that are easily quoted and apply to many situations. Store up treasures in heaven. No one can serve two masters. Don't worry, be happy!  This part of the sermon on the mount is recognizable in much of my culture.
However, making these sayings of Jesus into pithy quotes takes away their weight and bite. There is real soul-searching to be done in order to live lives based on these principles. God is willing and able to help us lead lives that rely less on this world and much more on God's kingdom. What good news for us all!

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