Saturday, January 5, 2013

Conflict, comfort and covenant, Gen 13-15

At the outset of this reading, Abram's men and Lot's men are in conflict and Abram lets Lot choose which land to go toward.  One land was green and lush, the other not so much but the good land has not so good people.  As a consequence, Lot and his family are captured in war and Abram has to come to their rescue.  The Lord provides Abram the victory and we see a rare glimpse into the righteous religious order of the day--a priest in the order of Melchezidek.  Abram received a blessing but refused any of the tainted plunder for himself.  Chapter 15 opens with a pensive Abram, thinking about the events of the times.  Had he taken the better land, it could have been his own family that was captured...

Isn't it just like God to put his finger right on the spot that's bugging us?  God promised Abram protection, but Abram realized wisely that without someone to give it to, protection of all he had was of little value.  God promises children as numerous as the stars and Abram believes God.  Again, God anticipates Abram's thoughts and promises a land for all those children to inhabit.  Abram seems willing to trust God for his own desires, but struggles to trust for the desires and needs of all his descendents and there's some validity in his hesitation.  Abram has control over whether he believes and obeys God.  He has little control over what his children will ultimately do (just like us).  If they reject God, then what will they do if or when God gives them what they deserve?

God then directs Abram to prepare for the covenant ceremony.  The word covenant comes from the root word "to cut."  The animals were divided in half and those responsible for keeping the covenant would walk through the middle of the animals testifying that if they broke the terms, then their fate should be similar.  Abram's only job is to prepare and protect the symbols until the ceremony can begin.  When Abram receives the vision, God alone walks through the animals in the form of the burning furnace and glowing torch.  It is God alone who is responsible for the covenant.  The furnace symbolizes God's just judgment and purifying power.  The torch symbolizes God's guidance.  Both will be needed.  The land is to belong to his decendants, but not yet.  There will be difficult times ahead, but the end is good. 

It is striking to me that, just like Abram, when I confess my misgivings to God, He responds with promises that are not conditional.  He doesn't sugar-coat the future, but He does speak to my fears and settles the outcome based on His ability, not mine.  That's what real friends do.  They have your back, but they tell you the truth, even when it's scary.  Abram himself would see none of it, but the promise was firm and Abram believed it.

Me too...

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