Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 1. Genesis (1)
Gen 12:1,2 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I need to be honest. I have come to another of those points in life where I need to feed on God and on His word. I have written studies or meditations for well over thirty years on a daily basis. It is how I feed, but with the awareness that others listen or watch (because I save the studies) the temptation is to become too aware of others. As I have prayed I have a picture of browsing in different fields and each field is a book of the Old Testament (we may do the New later). I don’t know the verses yet but my intent it to take one or two verses from one or (maximum) two places in each book of the Old Testament so it’s going to be a fairly long series. I don’t intend to be academic but just chew over God’s word and feed. Starting with Genesis two sets of verses stand out to me and so, taking the first of those two sets, our starting place is Abraham who stands out like a beacon.
Look at these verses above. How bizarre they are! The book of Genesis has not been written and indeed it will be at least four centuries before it is written down by Moses. Any knowledge of God, the Creator of all things, has come down through hazy history, through word of mouth, and it is vague at the very least. It will only be brought into focus as Moses spends hours, days, weeks, months and years in the Lord’s presence, that the word of mouth history will be brought into sharp and distinctive history.
But for now there is this wanderer from the north from somewhere up in the area known in history as the ‘cradle of civilisation’, Mesopotamia. He is going to become known as a ‘Hebrew’ (Gen 14:13), thought by some to mean ‘one from across the Euphrates River’ who becomes a family who become a tribe who become a nation, so that nation watchers would eventually describe Hebrews as “any member of a group of Semitic peoples tracing their descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” who become Israelites or, in modern terms, Jews.” But for the moment it’s just one man and his family. His family? Well he has a wife who is barren (Gen 11:30) which must have been a cause of anguish for him. When he had started his travels from the north and journeyed towards Canaan, he had been accompanied by his father, but he had died along the way (Gen 11:32), another cause of sorrow.
And why is he here in this foreign land full of random tribes of pagan worshippers? Because our verses above start, “The LORD had said to Abram….” Somehow, and we don’t know how, this man had ‘heard God’ and so clear was it that he stopped doing whatever it was that he did back there in his home country, and left to go to a land of promise. But it is so vague and he’s so unsure of himself that he only half obeys what he hears. He’s told to leave his father’s household but instead they come with him. So his father dies along the way and it’s just him. Not quite, his nephew Lot has come along and he’s going to be the source of problems in the days to come.
What was it that got him moving? Was it the fact that part of this ‘word’ was, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” Now I am sure he didn’t have half an understanding of all that but it spoke of something better than he had at the moment. This is particularly so when at that moment his wife appeared barren and years had passed so that it seemed a ‘set-in-concrete’ type of situation. This word offered an answer to his anguish from childlessness. So having painted the scene (which was necessary, rather like setting a meal down in front of us) what does it say to us? What is there for us to chew on? Some very obvious and maybe some not so obvious things.
First it brings God right into the arena of the world which is where mankind operate. This is God speaking to a particular man, a God who communicates and implies that He can operate in this man’s life to bring amazing changes. The impossible (childbearing) need not remain impossible. Second God puts this into a particular historical and geographical context. For reasons that will not become obvious for a little while, He wants Abram in this particular land. This is the place He has chosen to focus His attention in the millennia to follow; it’s going to be a demonstration place to answer the big questions of life, it will reveal Him and His ways to the world, and it will reveal to mankind what we are like. Abram knows nothing of this but that is what history eventually reveals. Third, God knowingly takes a man who is far from perfect through whom He will start to reveal to mankind so much about Himself. The nation of Israel that will eventually be formed will look back on Abram, or Abraham as he becomes, as their father (see Jn 8:39). That is why these verses stand out like a beacon in Genesis, if not in the whole Bible because they say, God has a plan and it involves a man!
But scripture must be grounded in my everyday life, otherwise it remains merely academic words, so what does it say to me? First, it says to me that God is there but He doesn’t want to remain at a distance, that He is a communicator and wants to speak to me. But what about? He has a plan for my life. Nine tenths of the time I don’t understand most of it, but He has a plan and He reveals bits of it to me, bit by bit. I probably won’t understand most of it until I get to heaven but my life has a purpose – His plan.
Second, it also says to me, encouragingly, that He knows I am far from perfect but that won’t exclude me from it. As long as I seek to be as obedient as my faltering faith that is often unclear, allows me, that is sufficient. But there’s something more, if this story of Abram is to mean anything, and it is that, whatever God has for me, and maybe others through me, it is for my good, my blessing, probably far more than I can hope or believe.
Third, if I hold on to the story of Abram, I need to remind myself that with God nothing is impossible. Abraham was childless but the promise was of a great nation. I may feel weak and inadequate but I need to remind myself that the outcome is down to Him. All I can do is seek to be as available as possible, thereafter it is what HE will achieve, and there are not limits to that!
But fourth, when he died that ‘great nation’ comprised one son, Isaac, but that was enough for the plan to be fulfilled. Huh? That says I am not to worry about the outworking, God will do as much or as little as He wants with my availability; I am only a part of His plan, but an important part, big or small! Hallelujah! Those four things are simple but profound and I need to hold on to them and live by them. Amen!