We all know someone who has struggled in life stemming from a poor or nonexistent relationship with his father.

This may not be what you thought it was. The song, Isaac, by Bear’s Den is the subject. It is about the story of Isaac, tangentially. But that really isn’t the point so much, as far as I understand it.

Isaac is a tender, haunting song, a thoughtful piece, but not a biblical exposition. Still, it is one of my favorite songs (currently), and I think it is worth breaking down a little bit.  Continue reading “Isaac”

The Wrath of God in History

 (c) Can Stock Photo

(c) Can Stock Photo

This is part 2 of the series, Putting God’s Wrath in Perspective. In part 1, we focused on the necessary fact that, if God exists, God is God; so who can question or judge Him if He is wrathful? We are in no position to change God or judge Him. But we are told, if God is wrathful, that is not all He is because we are told that God is love. (1 John 1:14)

With that in mind, I continue this series on the wrath of God by focusing on God in the history revealed in the Bible. I want to pick that history up from the point when God found a man in (Abraham) who was inclined to hear his voice.

Whether you believe that men have evolved from neanderthals to modern intellectuals or believe in Adam and Eve, we have a natural disconnect between us and the divine. This is to be expected based on the fact that we are the stuff of time, space and matter, and God necessarily is not. In that relationship, we need God to reveal Himself to us because we don’t have the tools in our toolbox to understand a timeless, spaceless immaterial God on our own accord.

The biblical story is the story of God reaching out to mankind through people inclined to hear his voice. Abraham was such a man, and God used Abraham to reveal His self in history to mankind. God chose this man, Abraham, to be the vehicle by which he would bless all people because Abraham was inclined to hear God and respond to him.

Through Abraham and one miraculously born son, Isaac, God promised to create a people that would be as many as the stars in the sky. The Old Testament is the story of God establishing these people, though these people were difficult to manage. They grumbled and complained a lot. They didn’t understand what God was doing. They were more inclined to go in a different direction and live differently than God wanted them to live, but God made his promise to Abraham, and He would keep it.

Continue reading “The Wrath of God in History”

Abraham, Isaac and Paradigm Shift

The story of Abraham and Isaac establishes a significant and remarkable shift in worldview for the time.

 (c) Can Stock Photo

(c) Can Stock Photo

We live in a specific cultural and historical time and view things through cultural, historical and other contexts that are familiar to us. Things in the Bible often do not make sense to us immediately because the filter through we see things with modern eyes distorts the context in which the stories in the Bible were told. Whether one believes the Bible is God’s word, no one can understand it without understanding the context.

The story of Abraham and Isaac is hard to understand in modern context. Why would anyone think to sacrifice a child? It’s barbaric, and a God who would ask such a thing must be barbaric too! So, the thinking goes.

Before going further, I think we need to stop and consider a couple of things. First, Abraham clearly was doing what he thought God was asking of him. He was willing to do it, even it would hurt him terribly. This was his only son.

In fact, Isaac was a miracle. Abraham and Sarah thought they were past child-bearing age, but God had promised them a child. Now, God seemed to be urging him to take that child’s life. It could not have made sense to Abraham. It went against what God had promised.

Yet, Abraham was convinced that he must do it, or at least follow through with this urging from God to wherever it leads.

It is hard to understand that kind of commitment to God in our modern world. Continue reading “Abraham, Isaac and Paradigm Shift”

The Unsettling Nature of Man, and God

2010-06-15 20.12.35I have been reading through Genesis the last couple of weeks. In reading the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Isaac’s twelve sons, who would become the twelve tribes of Israel, I have been impressed, negatively impressed, with them as people. I must not have really noticed before their blemishes.

Abraham, the father of faith, lied about his relationship to Sarah, not once but twice. When Abraham visited Egypt, and the Pharaoh’s princes were struck by Sarah’s beauty, Abraham instructed Sarah to say she was his sister so they would not kill him. When Pharaoh found out, he was appalled and let her go. Years later, when Abraham was living in the land of the Philistines, Abraham openly declared Sarah was his sister. After King Abimelech discovered the truth, he was equally taken aback.  Why did he lie about it? It hardly seems like a noble thing to do. I would call it cowardly.

After Abraham was told by God that he would bear a son and his descendants would become like the stars in the sky, a number of years went by. Sarah then offered her servant to Abraham, and the servant, Hagar, gave birth to a son, Ishmael. Such an act violating the marital covenant does not sit well with a twenty first century reader. It was also not God’s plan. God’s plan was to give Abraham a son through his wife, Sarah.

Isaac, of course, was the son God promised. He, too, seemed less than sterling as a man of God. He followed his father’s footsteps in deceiving the same King Abimelech that Rebekah was his sister, when she was his wife. Like father like son.

Isaac had twin sons, and he favored the oldest, Esau. God blessed the younger son, Jacob. How could Isaac have gotten it wrong?

As for Jacob, he deceived his father for the blessing that his father thought he was giving to Esau, and he did it with his mother’s help. In his old age, Jacob had become blind. Rebekah put Jacob up to pretending to be Esau to receive his father’s blessing. Deception seems to run in the family.

All of this has been unusually unsettling for me for some reason. I have stewed on it for days. Today it struck me that anyone looking at my life would be equally unsettled (or more I dare say). I am no example to follow. I have made many mistakes in my life, too numerous to count. I have done many things of which I am not proud, and my thoughts are another matter altogether. Why should I expect anything other than humanity from these men of old? The amazing thing is that God chose them!

Clearly, it was not their spotless virtue that is the testament of their lives. It was their faith. They heard God. They responded to God. They honored God with sacrifices and pillars and altars where they went. They believed God when He spoke. They lived their lives in deference to God. They relied on God. Their faith was counted to them as righteousness.

My take away is that these men were in right relation to God. I take comfort in that, even if I am bit unsettled by their weakness and humanity, as well as my own.  I am in good company, but more importantly, I am reminded of the importance of living a life with an attitude toward God.