The #1 Thing to Look for in a Spouse

Cake-Toppers-For-Wedding-103Genesis 24

Genesis 24 is a rather lengthy chapter about a servant of Abraham searching for a bride for his master’s son, Isaac.  What could we possibly get by reading about such an antiquated system of securing a bride?  What treasure can we glean from a seemingly unimportant chapter of the Bible?

First of all, it is important to understand that finding a wife for Isaac was crucial to passing on the blessing of God to (eventually) the whole world.  Abraham needed to get this right.  He (and his trusty servant) invite God throughout this chapter to be in every step of the process.  As Abraham sends him out on the task he tells the servant:  “The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying, “To your descendants I will give this land.’  He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son…” (24:7)

Second of all, it is important to acknowledge how difficult this task was going to be… even with God’s help!  Even if he found someone and she was willing to return… would she be the right one?  Remember they had to get this right.

Newspaper columnist, Ann Landers, once received a letter from a reader that went like this:

Dear Ann Landers:

Why would any husband adore a lazy, messy, addlebrained wife?  Her house looks as if they’d moved in yesterday.  She never cooks a meal.  Everything is in cans or frozen.  Her kids eat sent-in food.  Yet this slob’s husband treats her like a Dresden doll.  He calls her “Poopsie” and “Pet,” and covers the telephone with a blanket when he goes to work so she can get her rest.  On weekends he does the laundry and the marketing.

I get up at 6 a.m. and fix my husband’s breakfast.  I make his shirts because the ones in the stores “don’t fit right.”  If my husband ever emptied a wastebasket, I’d faint.  Once when I phoned him at work and asked him to pick up a loaf of bread on his way home, he swore at me for five minutes.  The more you do for a man, the less he appreciates you.  I feel like an unpaid housekeeper, not a wife. What goes on anyway?

—The Moose (That’s what he calls me.)

Ann’s response:  A marriage license is not a guarantee that the marriage is going to work, any more than a fishing license assures that you’ll catch fish.  It merely gives you the legal right to try.

How could this servant do more than find a willing girl?  He lays out a fleece before the Lord.  Verse 14 says:  “now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, also’–may she be the one whom You have appointed for your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to master.”

      Is he testing God here with his fleece?  Actually he is testing the quality of the potential bride.  To give a drink to this man at the well would display kindness… to water his camels as well… would be going the extra mile.  It would take a lot of water to satisfy a camel’s thirst.  This was an investment of time that Rebekah was offering when she indeed makes this offer to Abraham’s servant.  It displayed a depth of kindness that reassured the servant that he had found the one for Isaac.

When I was dating my wife, Janine, she will tell you that I showed up for our first date with the most awful looking pair of pants she had ever seen.  But she will also tell you that I showed up with a pink rose and a pair of devotional books for us to go through together.  She thought at the time… I can get rid of those pants… but I won’t find that level of devotion just anywhere.

How do you find the love of your life?  Make sure you get close enough (before the vows) to see their character come through in different life situations.  If you find someone with a depth of character… don’t let them get away!

How do you stay in love?  Continue to find those moments in which your spouse displays that rich depth of character that blew you away.  Then express to them (not just on your anniversary or their birthday) your appreciation of those characteristics which drew you to them to begin with.  And as time goes by… seek to discover even more kindnesses they exhibit.  You will if you endeavor to look.  Did you know that the love and care of the one you love is actually lovingkindness from the God of heaven and the God of earth?  Rejoice in that!

Blessings!

 

 

Good Grief

Genesis 23OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Good Grief.”  It was a favorite saying of the Charles Schultz character, Charlie Brown.  And it is a curious expression.  What kind of grief is “good”?

Let me ask you: What image comes to your mind when you think of the term “grief”?

  • Perhaps a bouquet of flowers being laid on a freshly dug grave.
  • Maybe a night of holding a loved one’s pillow, trying in vain to get some sleep.
  • Maybe it’s the tears that seem to flow endlessly, or a pain in the gut that is too deep to describe in words.

A good friend of mine from California, Louise Johnson once shared with me a poem her daughter had written about a grief experience in her own life.

Dead Man's Float

This is an apt picture of how grief can feel.   So, how can an emotion that feels that bad… ever be called “good”?

Genesis 23 records the death of Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

Sarah died.  Stop and think that over for a moment.  It is so easy to read a passage from the Bible, like this one, and not even attempt to feel what the Biblical personalities are emoting.  If you want your Bible reading and study to come alive… you need to do more than just parse verbs or examine sentence structure, you need to use your senses and emotions as you read.

Picture what Abraham is going through.  He is wailing in pain over the loss of the great love of his life.  Abraham was a man that proved his faith in God over and over again throughout his long life.  Will he remain faithful to God after he lays the one he loves to rest?  A good question for us would be this: What can we learn from how a godly person deals with grief?

1)  We can accept that grief is a healthy and normal part of life.  The Bible displays this over and over.

  • When the Patriarch Jacob died, they mourned for him 7 days.
  • The OT book of Lamentations, depicts the mourning of the prophet Jeremiah over the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • By the graveside of Lazarus it is recorded in the book of John that “Jesus wept.”
  • In the book of Revelation, though God will in the end wipe them all away, there will be, until that moment, tears in the eyes of his saints.

As the old Gordon Jenson song said: “Tears are a language, God understands.”

2)  The second lesson we learn from this text is that we are to remember to move from personal grief to public memorial.

The text here doesn’t say how long Abraham grieved for Sarah. It may have been weeks or months. It does, however, have this to say in Genesis 23:3: “Then Abraham rose from before his dead…”

There came a time to emerge from private grief.  He reached a moment when he summoned the courage to step up from mourning in solitude and say something to the world.  Ray Stedman writes that verse 3 “signified a squaring of the shoulder, a lifting up of the eye, a firming of the step, a facing of life again…” And as he emerged from that private grief… the first thing Abraham decided to do was to create a memorial for Sarah.

Genesis 23:3-6                                                                                                                                                                Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, [4] “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” [5] The sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, [6] “Hear us, my lord, you are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead.”

You may ask yourself, reading this text, why all the detail about the burial place?  It is written to tell us to what great lengths Abraham was willing to go to make sure Sarah’s memory would be preserved.  He did a great job picking out the plot by the way.  Sarah’s grave is one of the few in Palestine that has been authenticated today.  This cave, which was the burial place of Abraham, Jacob and Leah as well as Sarah, can still be visited today.  There is a mosque over the location, but it is believed to be the site of the cave.  Abraham succeeded in reminding the world of who Sarah was.

3)  The next thing grief can do is to help us continue to walk the path the Lord has laid out for us.

Did you catch how Abraham went on with God’s purpose for his life in this passage?  It’s subtle.

Genesis 23:17-18                                                                                                                                                             So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over [18] to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.

Did you catch it?

God had made two promises to Abraham.  One was that he would give him and Sarah a son.  That son would father a multitude of people.  That promise had been fulfilled 37 years ago.

The second promise God made to Abraham was land. He was going to give him the land of Canaan as a possession for his descendants.  Abraham is now 137 years old. Up to chapter 22, how much of the land of Canaan did Abraham own?   Zero.   By purchasing this land, Abraham is advancing the purposes of God.

When we lose someone it is so easy to not want to go on. It is hard without their support and love. But if God still has us here on planet earth, it is because He still has a purpose for us down here and we had best get at it.

And grief can actually help sharpen our focus in life. We understand now how fragile life is. We know that we have a limited time to fulfill our purpose for being here. Grief can spur us to serve those around us.

“Good” grief?  Absolutely.  It is an emotion created by God with much benefit to our souls.  Don’t struggle.  Don’t run and hide.  Trust God to see you through it.

Blessings!

Passing Faith’s Greatest Test

A+ paperGenesis 22

This is a difficult story for me.

God does something here that is hard for me to even imagine.  He demands that Abraham take the son he loved and offer him up on an altar as a burnt offering.  We learn later that God didn’t REALLY want Isaac to die and that His purpose was to see if Abraham would give up the thing that was dearest to him.

How could God even ask Abraham to commit such an act?  He’s asking Abraham:

  1. First of all: To aid in nullifying the promise He Himself had made to Abraham.
  2. And, secondly to engage in child sacrifice… a horrific act indicative of the pagan worship in the cities all around Abraham.

Why Isaac? The Son Abraham loved so much.  And why test Abraham at all?  If the intent was to see if Abraham had faith, would an all-knowing God be able to see the outcome without having Abraham run out the simulation?

Why Isaac?  Well, it was Isaac because the son of the promise was the only thing that could tempt Abraham’s heart away from God.  If God was going to construct a true test of Abraham’s heart… it was Isaac or nothing. Why test him at all? Well, God knew Abraham’s heart. He knew what Abraham would do.   But, hear this: ABRAHAM didn’t know what Abraham would do.

Charles Swindoll once said:  “The wonderful thing about God’s schoolroom … is that we get to grade our own papers.  You see, He doesn’t test us so He can learn how well we’re doing. He tests us so we can discover how well we’re doing.”  (God’s Provision in Time of Need)

There is no substitute for experience in the Christian life. We can learn all we can about the subject of God and score an “A” on every seminary level course, but that is not the same thing as living what you believe on the work table called life.  Will you pass this test?  If you were called to let go of that which you love the most… would you obey?  Or would you say:  “I don’t believe anymore.”

Theologian John Calvin was so bold as to say: “All true knowledge of God is born out of obedience. ”
The late Bob Benson in his book He Speaks Softly told the story of a banker friend of his in Nashville. Mr. Lewis Farrell took care of the Benson family’s business affairs and had the reputation of being a “tough old bird.”

One day he learned that his old friend had been in the hospital for surgery.  By the time he found out he was already back at home recuperating.  He writes: One afternoon I stopped by his house to see how he was getting along. He was sitting out in the back yard enjoying the sunshine as I joined him.         After awhile he said to me, “Bob, I don’t want to bore you or keep you too long, but I do want to tell you something that happened to me during this illness.”  I could sense that he was getting ready to tell me something that had touched him deeply.

“Down across the years,” he began, “I have taught a men’s Bible class at the church. My favorite book to teach has always been the Gospel of John.  One of the things that I always seemed to see so clearly was John’s teaching about eternal life.  [Eternal Life] was not a life that comes to us when this one is over.  It is in us and we are in it now.

When I learned I was going to have surgery I was not really afraid.  I had to wait a week for our family surgeon to return from vacation and I went through the whole process—waiting, preparation, surgery, recovery room, recuperation—and all without ever being even the least bit apprehensive.  I was gripped by a deep sense of serenity and peace.  I found that I really believed what I had been teaching all these years.  I was already living eternal life, and where I lived it was not really all that important.”

Benson continued: “There was peace in his eyes and satisfaction in his voice.  He knew that what he had said he believed was true, really was true.  And his faith belonged to him.”

Is your faith academic?  Or has it passed the Faith’s greatest test?

Blessings!

When Your Ship Comes In

Ship Coming InGenesis 21

Promises, Promises.

You open your email and read:  “You’ve won a trip to Hawaii.”  Don’t get too excited… if you will look at the fine print (and if they are honest) you will read:  “Airfare not included. Food not included. Hotel is free but there will be a pool charge, bed charge and air conditioning is coin operated.  You will also be bombarded with junk email until your eyes pop out of their sockets.  And you have also just launched a deadly virus that will crash your hard drive. Have a nice day.”

Don’t you hate advertisers that don’t deliver on their promises?   Promises made with strings attached are not fun.

A co-worker in Maryland once went on a vacation in the Bahamas.  Sounds like fun, huh.  Well his hotel’s air conditioning unit went out.  The food was terrible.  And there were also some buildings in his brochure that he couldn’t locate on the hotel’s grounds.  He went to ask about them and was told that they had burned to the ground two years earlier.   Promises made and not kept are even worse.

God does not operate like that.  With Him it is:  Promise Made, Promise Kept.

We have been following Abraham in his pursuit of the promise of God that he would have a son.  We come to Promise Fulfilled!  Genesis 21:1-2  reads:  “Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised.  So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him.”

Note two things: It was accomplished as God said it would be, and when God said it would occur.

Which are you struggling with?  The how or the when?  How God is going to help you or When God is going to show up?   If you are caught in that place, do what Abraham did, with faith and patience, Anchor yourself in the promises of God.

Now, what do you do once the promise is fulfilled… when your ship finally arrives in the harbor?  Sometimes when boats finally reach their destination there is a great crowd to meet them at the dock.  Sometimes there is a band playing to celebrate the arrival.  (I’ve never been on a cruse or a boat, but I did watch a lot of episodes of The Love Boat when I was a kid so I know this to be true.)  We looked for weeks at how Abraham weathered storms before he could enjoy the promise of God, now let’s look at that moment of “promise arrival.”

What does one do when God comes through?

#1 – After fulfillment one needs to continue to obey God.

What is the first thing Abraham does after his son is born?  Genesis 21:3, 4 – “Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.”   This is exactly what God had instructed Abraham to do in Genesis 17.  After you get what you want is not the time to go A.W.O.L. from God.  Continue in obedience.

#2 – After fulfillment one needs to be joyful.

Sarah praises God.  She says:  “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” (21:6)  Isaac, Hebrew for laughter, was an appropriate name for this moment.  Everyone breaks into celebration.  Have you remembered to thank God after your breakthrough?

#3 – After fulfillment one needs to remember and be more trusting in the future.

Don’t let this victory swell you with pride… let it be the catalyst for a lifetime of trust in the Lord.  Remain obedient.  Throw a party.  But then trust God for the next part of the plan.

God had first promised in chapter 12 when Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65.  He then delayed the fulfillment of the promise till Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90.  The wait only produced greater joy for them in the end.

Remember that in your next waiting period.

So where are you?

Freshly Blessed?  Rejoice.  Your ship has come in.  Let the band play.

Found God to be Faithful?   Show your appreciation through continued obedience.  Let God show you new heights to climb.

Still waiting?  Wait with patience.  He will see you through.  A promise is a promise.

Blessings!