Friday, January 18, 2019

"Hold Steady Under Fire"

Genesis 49.23f “The Message”

“The archers with malice attacked, shooting their hate-tipped arrows; 

But he held steady under fire; his bow firm, his arms limber, 

With the backing of the Champion of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.”

Joseph received Jacob’s death-bed blessing in recognition of his courage in the face of persecution.

“He held steady under fire.”

You want to run and hide as the arrows of persecution and flaming darts of criticism fly your way.

“Hold steady under fire.”

Your soul silently screams surrender when adversity threatens to crush your spirit of hope.

“Hold steady under fire.”

You are tempted to hurry to your own defense before others can vindicate you.

“Hold steady under fire.”

Quick results are not forth-coming and you are desperate to take an easier path, with fewer delays and and more manageable obstacles.

“Hold steady under fire.”

You’re alone and no one seems to care. You’re afraid, hurt, wounded, and bleeding.

“Hold steady under fire.”

You are backed by “the Champion of Jacob,” sustained by “the Shepherd” of your soul, and standing on “the Rock of Israel.”

“Hold steady under fire.”
__________________

The interesting photo "Bow & Arrow" was shot by Chris Preedy of England in 2008 and used by permission on this blog entry. Her subject was the statue of Robin Hood at Nottingham Castle. Her work can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/melodysparks/.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

"There is a God and... I'm Not It!"

Genesis 46.2b-3 NIV

“Jacob! Jacob!... I am God, the God of your father… Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you.

 
Who is God? The answer is simple. God is God. No one else is God. God alone qualifies to be God. 

“I am God”

This truth of who God is has serious implications for the rest of us who aren’t God. God has a specific plan and detailed design for each person. If I have a pulse, I have a purpose. God’s plan may surprise me and, like some software I use, may seem counter-intuitive. If I were God I would do my life differently. But I’m not and He is. Therefore, the only sensible response is trust. I must trust Him and, since God is God, I can trust Him.

If I trust myself then I betray the secret notion that I think I am God. If I believe God alone is God, then I will trust and obey when He sends me to places I do not want to go.

“I am God… go down to Egypt”

Egypt was not Jacob’s choice. It was God’s. Because Jacob knew that God was God, he was willing to go.
“I am God… I will go down to Egypt with you…”

 
There are two simple truths I should be aware of…
  1. There is a God, and…
  2. I’m not it!
That should make it far easier for me to go to Egypt or anywhere else God might send me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"Some Plans Don't Work Out Very Well"

Genesis 44.18a, 33-34 NLT

“Then Judah stepped forward and said,… Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. For how can I return to my father if the boy is not with me? I cannot bear to see what this would do to him.’”

Judah tried unsuccessfully to atone for past sin. Twenty-one years earlier, he orchestrated a plot to rid his family of Joseph. Judah hated his brother for the obvious favortism Joseph received from their father who lavished  upon him special gifts like multi-colored tunics (Genesis 37.3). Judah wasn’t alone in his angry feelings…

“…all his brothers… hated [Joseph] and could not speak with him on friendly terms.”
Genesis 37.4 NASU

Eliminating Joseph made perfect sense…
  • Joseph’s offensive dreams would come to an end
  • No remaining reason for Jacob’s absurd favoritism
  • All brothers would be on an level playing field
  • The inheritance would be shared equally
There was something unnatural about Jacob’s relationship with Joseph. It was unfair for a father to love a child that intensely. Killing Joseph would finally achieve the equality that every child in the family deserved. Equality was a noble virtue. If Jacob couldn’t treat all the boys equally, Judah and his brothers would force him to. In this case, the end clearly justified the means, or so the brothers thought.

It occurred to Judah that it would be more profitable to sell, rather than kill Joseph. Murder was such a messy thing. Sell the boy, make a buck and, best of all, no body to dispose of.

“Judah said, ‘What are we going to get out of killing our brother
and concealing the evidence? Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites,…”
Genesis 37.26-27a “The Message”

The disposal of Joseph had horrific side effects. While Judah and his jealous brothers did not approve of the depth of their father’s love for Joseph, they were not prepared for the intensity of Jacob’s misery and grief to follow. Twenty-one years later the tables radically turned. Judah found himself pleading for mercy from Joseph and freedom for Benjamin. The ‘Joseph Elimination’ plan had not worked out well. Jacob never fully recovered and he transferred his over-affection to youngest brother Benjamin. Nothing really changed except the sinister and relentless guilt that crept in every year since Joseph left. Judah and his brothers rarely talked of it but they all felt it.

Forced to face his past sin, Judah tried a new plan. He would become Benjamin’s savior and, in so doing, save himself. He offered himself in exchange for the life of Benjamin. Judah would make his own substitutionary atonement. Perhaps he could release himself from the unrelenting burden of shame that racked his soul. Perhaps, by the sacrificial offering of himself, Judah would finally achieve the inner peace that eluded him for over two decades. But this plan would not work out either. Judah could never sufficiently pay the price for his past sin. Judah (and the rest of humanity) would have to wait for God’s perfect plan of redemption with the arrival of one of Judah’s own descendants forty generations later:

“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of…
...Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus
who is called Christ… He will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:1-3a, 16, 21c NIV

Only Jesus, not Judah nor anyone else... only Jesus can rightly deal with the inequities of life. Only Jesus can release us from the awful burden of sin and guilt. Only Jesus can “save his people from their sins.” He alone is God’s perfect plan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"Fair-Weather Friend... Am I One?"

Genesis 40.23 NLT

“Pharaoh's cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.”

How easy it is to forget those who have lent us a helping hand. Pharaoh’s cup-bearer was in a jam. Imprisoned and facing an uncertain future, he sought Joseph’s advice and benefited by the encounter. Joseph also needed a little help from his new ‘friend’...

“…when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness;
mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.”
Genesis 40.14 NIV

The cup-bearer was no real friend. He acted like one when he needed help but never gave Joseph “another thought” when his troubles were past. Here’s two pieces of advice about ‘fair-weather friends’…
  1. Avoid them.
  2. Don’t be one.
Here’s some even better advice from the best book of advise ever written…

“Do not forsake your friend…”

“Wealth brings many friends,
but a poor man's friend deserts him.”

“A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.”

“Do not forsake your friend…”

Proverbs 27.10a; 19.4; 18.24; 17.17; 27.10a

This text makes me search my soul. Who has blessed, supported, defended, encouraged, or befriended me in the past? Have I forgotten all about them? An old acquaintance? My aging aunt and uncle? A professor from college? My fourth grade Sunday School teacher? A co-worker?

It’s time to be a real friend and return the favor.
___________________

The cartoon "Fairweather Friends Reunited" is used by permission of superb UK illustrator Gerard Whyman whose work has appeared in many publications including Reader's Digest. You can visit his site and purchase his very funny book Oddly Distracted at http://www.gerardwhyman.co.uk/index.htm.

Monday, January 14, 2019

"Accidental Discoveries"

Genesis 36.24 NKJV

“These were the sons of Zibeon: both Ajah and Anah. This was the Anah who found the water in the wilderness as he pastured the donkeys of his father Zibeon.”

Many significant discoveries have been made quite by accident. Gravity, penicillin, X-rays, cellophane, Post-it notes, Superglue, Velcro, Scotchgard, safety glass, the popsicle, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and our beloved country of America were all accidental discoveries.[1]

Anah was tending his father’s donkeys in the region of Seir south of the Dead Sea nearly 2,000 years before Christ. He was minding his father’s business when he stumbled upon an undiscovered hot springs. His accidental discovery earned him the name “Beeri” (Genesis 26.34) meaning ‘my well’ or ‘water man.’ On the day he discovered water in the wilderness, Beeri the Hittite (alias Anah, son of Zibeon) was not planning to make an important discovery you and I would read about 4,000 years later in a book called Genesis. He was just going about his father’s business.

I am called to take care of my Father’s business. Maybe today, I will stumble upon water in the wilderness. It could happen at an unexpected time when I am preoccupied with the activities God has called me to perform. My accidental discovery may benefit humankind in ways I cannot imagine. Just like Beeri the Hittite and Jesus of Nazareth, I am should attend to my Father’s business. Something new could come of that. 

“Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?”
Jesus, Luke 2.49b NKJV

__________________

[1] For good reference material on this subject check out these two books by Royston M. Roberts: Serendipity ~ Accidental Discoveries in Science and Lucky Science ~Accidental Discoveries from Gravity to Velcro, with Experiments.

Artist in picture above unknown. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

"But Honey, I'm Doing This for You and the Kids!"

Genesis 33.14 NIV

Self-centered by H5L5N5“So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

Who is the most important person in a man’s life? Is it himself? Does he put his wife and kids through hell to get where he’s going? Is he bluffing his way there with, “But Honey, I’m doing this for you and the kids”?

Jacob was the most important person in Jacob’s life. As he prepared to confront Esau’s vengence, Jacob possessed a singular and not-so-holy ambition… to save himself! Self-preservation surfaced as priority number one.

What’s your top priority? Self-fulfillment? Self-enjoyment? Self-indulgence? Self-advancement? Self-...? To get where they want to go, most guys are strategic. They work smart, hard, and fast. No time to waste. A man’s financial and professional neck is on the line.

Self-centered by H5L5N5Jacob had a specific strategy too. He dispatched nearly six hundred valuable animals in five separate droves to Esau and his four hundred men (Genesis 32.23-16). Hopefully his gift would serve as a peace offering and soften Esau’s offended heart. “Jacob thought, ‘I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me’” (Genesis 32.20b NLT). Jacob arranged his handmaids and their children in the front row, next Leah and her children, and finally his favorite wife Rachel and his favorite son Joseph in the rear (Genesis 33.2). Behind all of them, Jacob positioned his most favorite person... himself! From the back of the line he would enjoy maximum protection and the greatest insulation from his angry brother. Jacob would be last to face Esau.

But all that changed. On the day of reckoning in a moment of truth, Jacob had an epiphany. He got over himself, took a major risk, and assumed true leadership for the very first time.

“He himself passed on ahead of them and… came near to his brother.”
Genesis 33.3 NASU

Self-centered by H5L5N5Jacob got religion. He was saved from himself. He stepped up to his role as sacrificial leader. Jacob finally placed his family’s interests ahead of his own. No more would his wives and children be forced to endure a pace and lifestyle designed to insure the interests of Jacob. It was now as it should be… Jacob became focused on the greater good for the people he loved. From now on, whatever was in the best interest of Jacob’s family came first.

“So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly
at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children,...
__________________

The cartoon above is used by permission of the artist Hélène Lefébure. You can check out her funny and honest work at "The Accidental Bookseller ~ my life without George Clooney" (http://h5l5n5-theaccidentalbookseller.blogspot.com/).

Thursday, January 10, 2019

"Gather at the Mouth of the Well"

Genesis 29:7-8 NIV

“‘Look,’ he said, ‘the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.’

‘We can't,’ they replied, ‘until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.’”

Jacob came to find a wife in the country of Paddan Aram “from among the daughters of Laban,” his mother’s brother (Genesis 28.2). Upon his arrival he met some shepherds who gathered their sheep at an unorthodox time. At midday sheep should have been grazing in the fields, not gathering at the water hole. Jacob encouraged the sheep herders to water their flocks and quickly go back out to the pastures where they belonged.

His fellow herdsmen explained the local shepherd’s code... All flocks were required to be present and accounted for before the stone could be “rolled away from the mouth of the well.” This rule may have existed because…

 -----1).. the stone was too heavy to move without everyone’s assistance, or perhaps…

 -----2).. the well was community property and water rationing was monitored by all stakeholders.

Jacob discovered there was an abundance of water behind the rock for every shepherd and sheep who needed it. 

There’s still plenty of water for thirsty sheep. The rock was rolled away... permanently!

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his
innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 7.37-38 NASU

When Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea took His body and “placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb” (Mark 15.46). Very early on the following Sabbath, some women discovered “that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away” (Mark 16.4). From that day, the living water has been made freely and abundantly available to every thirsty soul who gathers at “the mouth of the well.”

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning
and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from
the spring of the water of life without cost.”
Revelation 21.6 NASU

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

"Playing it Safe"

Aslan from Walt Disney's Chronicles of NarniaGenesis 26.16;
Matthew 8.34 NASU

“Then Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us, for you are too powerful for us.’

“And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.”

In the Bible reading plan I am following there are, coincidentally, two verses that sound very similar in spite of their contextual differences. One is from the Old Testament, the other from the New. They are separated by nearly 2,000 calendar years and by about 1,000 pages of the Bible.

In the Genesis account, Abimelech king of the Philistines, told Isaac to “go away… for you are too powerful for us.” God’s blessing was with Isaac. He could do no wrong. Everything he touched turned to gold. Wherever his herdsmen dug, they found water. Isaac’s prosperity during a time of famine in Palestine created bad feeling among the Philistines and the king concluded, “Isaac, this town’s not big enough for the two of us!”

According to the passage in Matthew, Jesus caused a minor riot among the herdsmen near the city of Gedara by sending demons into a herd of pigs. The animals stampeded their way over a cliff to their death in the Sea of Galilee. The Gedarenes “implored [Jesus] to leave their region.” The townsmen could quoted Genesis 26 with the words of king Abimelech words to Isaac: “Go away… for you are too powerful for us.”

In the first volume of The Chronicles of Narnia [1] series, Mr. Beaver attempts to explain the character of the story’s hero to the human children…

“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Jesus isn’t safe. He’s the king and He’s good, but He’s not safe. Good people reject Christ from fear of what He may require of them, imploring Him: “go away… for you are too powerful for us.” 

Am I ready to risk everything for the adventure of a lifetime? If not, then maybe I too should play it safe like Abimelech, the Gedarenes, and most of humanity. Perhaps I to should send Jesus away to keep Him from disrupting my quiet and easy life.
___________________

[1] The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, 1950, First Collier Books Edition, 1970, pp. 75f.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

"Possess the Gate"

Genesis 24.60 NASU

“They blessed Rebekah and said to her, ‘May you, our sister, become thousands of ten thousands, and may your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them.’”

































“Possess the gate” is a military term referring to the conquest of a city with walls. Rebekah was the bride of Isaac. Her descendants would “possess the gate of those who hate them.”

I am a spiritual descendant of Rebekah and, together with other members of the Body of Christ, I will “possess the gate” of my enemies. 

The Church of Jesus Christ advances relentlessly toward the city walls and gate of hell to conquer Satan and crush his empire. Our position is offensive. We do not assume a defensive posture but rather “overwhelmingly conquer” (Romans 8.37 NASU). “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8.37 NIV). “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” because “greater is He [Jesus] who is in [me] than he [the devil] who is in the world,” (Philippians 4.13; 1st John 4.4). 

I crush the head of Satan, smash the gates of hell, and conquer the enemy of my soul. I have this confidence on good authority, the authority of God’s Word...

“So the LORD God said to the serpent,… ‘You will crawl on
your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will
put enmity between you and the woman, and between your
offspring and hers; he will crush your head,...’”
The LORD, Genesis 3.14-15 NIV

“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’"
David, Psalm 110.1 NASU

“The God of peace will soon
crush Satan under your feet.”
Paul, Romans 16.20 NLT

“…I will build My church and the gates
of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Jesus, Matthew 16.18b NKJV

_____________________

The amazing photo above entitled "Dante's Gates of Hell" is used by permission of Austin, Texas photographer Trey Ratcliff whose work you can view at his blog at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/. Trey explains, "This is Rodin's huge famous La Porte de l"Enfer, also known as the Gates of Hell. I found it off to the side of the Musee Rodin in Paris..."

Monday, January 07, 2019

"Abi"

Genesis 22.7-10 NKVJ

“But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ “And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”
  
The writers of the New Testament and commentators throughout history extolled the faith of Abraham “who believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (James 2.23; Galatians 3.6; Romans 4.3; Hebrews 11.17-19; Genesis 15.6). Abraham was a man of great faith. But what about Isaac? It took more than a little faith for Isaac to hold still for an untimely death.

Imagine Isaac’s horror. Abraham binds his beloved son and heaves him upon a makeshift altar in the mountains of Moriah. With perhaps the same crude stone knife he used to circumcise himself and Isaac’s older brother Ishmael, Abraham now lifts the instrument of death in obedience to God. He prepares to thrust the blade into Isaac and kill what he loves the most. He will sacrifice his son! [1]

The story has a happy ending. An angel halts the deadly deed and provides a ram for the sacrificial offering. Abraham would commemorate the event by naming the place “Jehovah Jireh” (the LORD will provide) as recorded in Genesis 22.14. But his miraculous deliverance that does not take away from the faith required for Isaac to willingly surrender his life. Isaac could have resisted. Apparently his love and trust was greater than the shock of his own betrayal at the hand of the man he affectionately and intimately knew as Abi, “My father.”

Would I hold still in complete surrender if my heavenly Father betrayed my trust? Not likely, but that’s what the Son of God did... 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ 
And having said this he breathed his last.”
Mark 15.34; Luke 23:46 ESV

Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
Job 13.15a KJV
_________________

[1] The Bible indicates that the experience at Moriah occurred “Some time later” (Genesis 22.1) following the events surrounding Isaac’s birth and the dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21. First century Jewish historian Josephus thought Isaac to be 25 years old at this time and wrote: “Now Isaac was of such a generous disposition as became the son of such a father,… So he went immediately to the altar to be sacrificed,” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 13, Sections 46, 48). Dating in Reese’s Chronological Bible, suggests that Isaac was 33 years old when Abraham was called to place him on the altar. This is approximately the age of Jesus when He was sacrificed for the sins of the world.

"The Sacrifice of Isaac" was painted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), who is widely considered to be the earliest great artist of the Baroque school of painting.

Friday, January 04, 2019

"Three Little Words"

Genesis 18.15

Sarah lied. She said, ‘I didn’t laugh,’ because she was afraid. But he said, ‘Yes you did; you laughed.’” The Message

Sarah denied the power of God. She “laughed to herself” (Genesis 18.12) upon hearing the news that she, a 90 year old woman, would soon bear a son. When confronted with her unbelief, Sarah denied it. Sarah both doubted God and then lied about it!

The spirit of Sarah lives on. If an angel of the Lord appeared to me and said, “Next year at this time you will be a starter for the Portland Trailblazers,” I’d laugh too. The angel would be right to inquire, “Why did [you] laugh?... Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18.13-140).

I am preconditioned to quickly deny my doubt. “Who? Me? I didn’t laugh!” I can be dogmatic and insistent in my lie, exactly as Sarah was. I too have be caught between the apparent absurdity of faith and the denial of my unbelief. Like Sarah, we lie to ourselves and others because we are afraid. Afraid to appear wrong. Afraid to be wrong.

We back ourselves into a situational corner and choose to believe our own propaganda. We defend our point of view at all costs, even when we suspect we’re wrong. It becomes less about the issues and more about fear.  The fear of being known as one who make mistakes, fear of disclosing the uncomfortable truth... I could be wrong!

This episode in Sarah’s life inspires me to admit the truth even when it demonstrates my unbelief, my failures, my humaness. Perhaps if Sarah had paused when confronted by the angel, she might have gathered the courage to admit to her laughter and the unbelief it betrayed. Strength of character does not come from being right 100% of the time, but from the regular practice of saying three little words. 

Thursday, January 03, 2019

"Make Me Blessable"

Genesis 12.1-2 NIV
“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 AM BLESSED TO BLESS.

I am healthy and strong. My future is bright. God gave me a 'more-than-wonderful' wife of twenty years, seven beautiful children, two fabulous sons-in-law, two fabulous daughters-in-law, and seven very cool grandkids! I have many excellent relatives, in-laws, and good friends. Like Abraham, I am truly a wealthy man.

I AM BLESSED TO BLESS.

I earn a fine income from a job I enjoy, helping people get what they need. God gave me a brain for business and I’m good at what I do. My customers appreciate and refer me regularly and I am never without opportunities to serve others through my profession of choice.

I AM BLESSED TO BLESS.

I have a vision to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God has graciously gifted me with a calling, a deep desire, and the qualifications to share His Word. I am compelled to fulfill my purpose as a minister of the Gospel. The church I attend recognizes and encourages me to perform my calling.

I AM BLESSED TO BLESS.


Nothing I have is for me alone. I am a channel through whom the blessings of God may flow to the world He so dearly loves. It is an awesome honor to be chosen for this purpose. In fact, to have a purpose in life is a person’s most cherished possession.

I AM BLESSED TO BLESS.

Lord, make me blessable. Bless me that I might be a blessing!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

"Scatter or Topple"

Genesis 11.4 NIV

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 
After the flood, the descendants of Noah settled in “the land of Shinar” (Genesis 11.2). Communication in those days was easy and free-flowing. “The whole world had one language and a common speech” (Genesis 11.1). People who communicate well and work together can accomplish great things. The Lord acknowledged this of the Shinarites:

“If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do
this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
Genesis 11.6 NIV

I used to believe the traditional interpretation of “a tower that reaches to the heavens;” that is, the people were taking advantage of their unity to compete with the Lord. They planned to build a structure that would literally reach the habitation of God. Their intention was to co-exist with Him. To avoid that possibility, the Lord was forced to confuse their language to protect His realm from human invasion. 

This concept seems ridiculous to me now. Could anyone reach God with a physical structure of any size? Such an architectural feat could reach beyond Pluto, the Milky Way, the farthest galaxy, the edge of the Universe and still not locate heaven’s throne of God. These ancient tower builders knew better than that. Their intentions were straight-forward and certainly achievable: 

“…so that we may make a name for ourselves…”

The architects of a new world designed a building project to create cultural solidarity. A tall building would give them credibility and identity as a political power in the small region of their known world. The city of Shinar would have been lucky to compete with Seattle’s Space Needle at a mere six-hundred and five feet. With their limited building materials and inferior engineering capabilities, any structure bigger than two stories would have been unstable. Motivated by a sense of pride and the need to “make a name” for themselves, Noah’s offspring would most assuredly have taken architectural risks and suffer the building’s collapse during its first storm or tremor.  They would soon learn the awful truth:

“Pride goes before destruction...”
Proverbs 16.18 ESV

By confusing their language and scattering the people, God may have saved the inhabitants Shinar from themselves.

Could it be that the only thing worse than adversity is success? Perhaps success is a setup for a fall and not always in my best interest. God probably knows what’s best for me. He may scatter my efforts toward success to protect me from toppling once I’ve achieved it.

________________

The beautiful painting above is from a children's pop-up book called The Tower of Babel (Master Books, 2007) written and illustrated by Jon Taylor.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

"Invent Your Own Reality"

Genesis 4.9 NIV

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ 

‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

Cain was a murderer. In the fit of jealous rage “Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4.8).

But was Cain a liar? At first glance it seems that he was. Surely Cain knew of his dead brother’s whereabouts. The LORD inquired,
“Where is your brother?” and Cain responded, “I don’t know.” Did he?


Our minds play amazing tricks on us. We see what we allow our minds to visualize. We know only what we can comprehend. Some realities are more intense than we choose to tolerate. We minimize, pretend, ignore, forget, anesthetize, rationalize, or medicate reality away. Our brains possess a remarkable capacity to invent new realities more palatable than the old ones. Invented realities work well for us. They allow us to function. Pure reality can emotionally cripple and render us helpless, or worse, force us to face the truth and become responsible. Denial is a much easier and more desirable path.

Did Cain know where his brother was? Maybe not. To allow himself such knowledge would have meant taking responsibility for his brother’s condition. The answer to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” depends entirely upon my choice of realities. If I  invent my own reality, as did Cain, then I may honestly reply, “I don’t know.” If I make it my business not to know where my brother is, how then can I be required to become his “keeper?” 

This self-serving logic lays the groundwork for a life of denial. Denial is an alluring and powerful form of self-deception, and hurts everyone in its path.

__________________

The excellent image of Cain peering at his brother Abel is called "Cain" by eikonik whose amazing Bible art you can view and purchase at his Deviant Art site (http://eikonik.deviantart.com/).