For another post on my favorite Christmas songs, I’m including the lyric video from the Burl Ives’ version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. This version has a slightly different tune than what we find in many songbooks and by many singers, but it’s the one most familiar to me. I grew up playing the Burl Ives vinyl album called Holly Jolly Christmas for years. If you want to hear other tunes, including a newer one by the Christian group “Casting Crowns,” click the title to view the Wikipedia article.
In reading the history of this song, I’ve found that this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was written after a number of life tragedies. History has it written in either 1867, or in 1863 in the midst of the American Civil War. Whether during or after the war, this poem was likely written when, in addition to personal tragedy that included a war-injured son and recently deceased wife, the writer’s heart was close to breaking.
Put yourself into the life of Mr. Longfellow. Imagine getting up in the morning, struggling to find any hope in your day or in your life. Your home and family no longer feel like the safe places of comfort they once were. Then, just when it seems nothing else can go wrong, war in your own homeland takes away your last place of security and stability. You stand on your front porch wondering what it’s all about when the church bells start ringing just as they did when life was safe and war was not raging. Here’s verse 1…
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet, the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
The poet laments how the song goes on when it seems life should not. The Christmas season and its accompanying song are unbroken, the exact opposite of the author’s heart. He writes about this in verse 2…
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
It was more than the author could take. His pain brought him to one of his lowest points in life. He writes of this low point in verse 3…
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
The air is thick with his hopelessness. Can you feel it? Have you been there in your own life? He sees no possibility of peace on earth or any good will to men as things stand now. Whatever else he was thinking and doing here, I imagine he was also praying. It is only in heartfelt prayer that a man could hear a voice of hope reminding him that God is still on the throne. Here’s my favorite verse, verse 4…
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
God is not dead! He is not even nodding off for a nap, and He doesn’t need an alarm clock of war or tragedy to wake Him. He is and always has been (and always will be) on His throne. His desire is peace on earth and good will to all men. For that desire to come to pass, God knew there had to be a covering for the sins man commits while misusing his free will.
The best use of our free will is to choose God, and that’s God’s hope for all mankind. Unfortunately, we lean too often on our own understanding instead of on His will, His ways, and His everlasting arms, so we need the blood of Yeshua to rescue and deliver us. That salvation through Christ is the best reason of all to celebrate His miraculous birth. God is still on His throne, wide awake and preparing a hopeful future for those who love Him. The wrong shall fail! The right shall prevail! And, one day, we will have true peace on earth and good will to men.
So, I’ll start tonight with a confession. I am so not good at controlling my use of time. I tend to do better when I’m right at the edge of a deadline, but even then, I’m often late. I have to schedule myself to be places far earlier than I think I should be there, so when I run late for my schedule, I’ll be on time for the real schedule. I know some of my issues are with being easily distracted. Mostly, however, I know I’m not good at pacing, so I’m either not paying attention to time or rushing and making mistakes that cause me to be even later.
I wonder, if I had the control of time in my hands, would I control it any differently? Hmm, sounds like a possible novel. The main character can discover that she has the ability to control how fast time moves forward around her. so she can move herself faster when necessary. Of course, if she’s stuck in a traffic jam, moving herself faster won’t help her get to work on time. Ugh. I guess that won’t work either.
But really, what if we did have more control of time? Would we make the hours last on the things that mattered and speed them up during the painful times? I know if I knew exactly how much time I had on this earth, I would definitely want to linger in the good times as long as possible. I would hope, though, that I would also learn to get control of focus and pacing, so I could do all that God has called me to do while I’m here on earth.
Today’s Infinite Supply newsletter talks about the disciples’ relationship with times and seasons.
Times and Seasons
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that
the Father has fixed by His own authority.
Acts 1:7 ESV
They had asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” The response from Jesus is anticlimactic to the impatient. The King will not be forced, or rushed, or pushed into action. Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons.”
The Kingdom of God is progressive – growing up from a single seed into an abundant tree with many branches and much fruit. Those seedlings were just freshly planted in eleven men and they would not come to maturity all at once but over the course of many seasons of increase and decrease. We cannot speculate as to when He will return in the power and glory of His Kingdom. We must “watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
Source: The Irresistible Kingdom by Chip Brogden
©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org. Permission is granted for non-commercial (free) distribution provided this notice appears. Share this message with your friends!
I think the disciples might have wanted a bit more control of the time in their lives too. They had watched their world go from almost hopeless with no prophets or prophecies for years to the old books coming to life before their eyes. Why should they have even considered that it was just the beginning of a history more than two-thousand years in the future? After all the waiting, they were excited to have everything fulfilled; not just a few things.
In some ways, the urgency might have been good to get the disciples working on their appointed tasks. So, for us as well, a feeling of urgency to spread the gospel can be good inspiration. We can see that the darkness wastes no time spreading through every venue available, so maybe it’s time we get in the race too. As we get a grasp on the idea of not having the time in our hands, we can also grasp the idea of trusting The One who does. When we do that, it’ll mean something totally different when we say, “I don’t have the time,” and we can add, “but I know Who does.”
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
(Above chorus from: I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill)
Today, I visited “The Titanic.” Well, maybe not The Titanic, but the museum built to make you imagine you are touring the actual ship while viewing some history, pictures, and artifacts. By the time I got to the end of the tour, I was exhausted by the display of pride, class distinction, and other forms of egotism that came together to help create the disaster that shook the world on April 14th, 1912. It wasn’t all bad in that there were many heroes once the situation became catastrophic. For example, there was the preacher who tried to get a man to accept Christ and even gave up his life jacket for the dying sinner just before the 28-degree waters took him under. Oh, but there were so many who seemed to taunt God with rejection of safety procedures, ignoring warning signs, and continually saying how unsinkable the ship was. And we know how that worked out.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:25 through Deuteronomy 31:30, we complete another week and another portion of Torah. Shabbat Shalom to all of you. In this passage, we will read of people with a similar attitude to some of those on board the Titanic. If you click on the Scripture link, you’ll see that I’ve started with verse 24 because it leads into the story.
So Moses finishes writing the book of Torah, of all the laws God has instructed him to write for the people. He kept writing until they were completely done, and when he finished, he handed them off to the Levites who carried the Ark of the Covenant. He tells them to put them next to the ark with the covenant inside, so it can be there as a witness against the people.
Now, Moses tells the Levites that he knows how they will behave as soon as he dies. He says the people are stiff-necked and rebellious even while he is there to see them, so it can only get worse when he is gone. Then he tells the Levites to assemble all the leaders and heads of tribes from Israel, so he can tell them the same things. He wants to present them with the truth of their future, so they cannot claim any kind of ignorance. Moses tells them they will do what is evil in the eyes of The Lord and provoke Him with evil deeds. And then he begins to sing them a song of their corruption and their wicked future, and I believe the verses of the song will be the topic of most of our readings for next week.
One woman who was interviewed on the audio tour at the Titanic museum said she was afraid to go on the ship because all the things the people were saying seemed to fly right in the face of God. They were certain it was unsinkable; certain the metal was impenetrable; and certain disaster was impossible after all that was invested in the building and crew of such a special ship. They were proven wrong on all counts, and sadly, had they not decided they were invincible, they would have done as other ships in the same waters and not tried to push through the floating ice. Oh, and the guy who was supposed to watch for icebergs sure wouldn’t have gone to sleep without a replacement while they were going through the hazardous waters.
We know from our own history, and Moses knew from the prophesy God had given him, that Israel had a similar prideful attitude. Somehow, they felt invincible and untouchable. They knew they were special to God, but they didn’t take time to contemplate why. So God decided to show them just how easily a house built on a foundation other than God can crumble. Trusting anyone or anything more than Our God and Creator of the Universe is a big mistake. He breathed the world into existence, and He pulled Israel together to become His special treasure–not because they had anything on their own that made them special, but because He chose them. The moment we think we’ve got it all together to the point where we no longer need God, then like Israel and many aboard the Titanic, we are making a mistake of titanic proportions.
I remember the first time I saw a futuristic attraction at a Disney(R) theme park. So many cool inventions and ideas, and what did I remember the most? The TV phone. I mean, it hadn’t been that long since we got our first touch tone phone (and The Pushbutton Telephone Songbook, Vol. 1 to go with it 🙂 ), and here they were telling us we could talk to each other face to face on the phone. Wow! And while I never saw, in person, The House of the Future shown above, I did see it in books and thought the concepts were amazing. (The attraction was demolished in 1967, and even the story of the demolition is interesting. Learn more at the Yesterland site and at Wikipedia as well.)
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 29:12 through Deuteronomy 29:14 (Complete Jewish Bible) we’ll read just three verses again, and these are about God’s plans for a home of the future. I’ll paste the text from the New Living Testament (NLT) which has the same verses as Deuteronomy 29:13-15 because the CJB tries to match the Tanakh…
By entering into the covenant today, he will establish you as his people and confirm that he is your God, just as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But you are not the only ones with whom I am making this covenant with its curses. I am making this covenant both with you who stand here today in the presence of the Lord our God, and also with the future generations who are not standing here today.
I consider those of us who are now of the seed of Abraham, and those of us who have become the seed of Abraham by being grafted in with a circumcised heart, as the audience to whom God was referring when He says, “…future generations who are not standing here today.” We are blessed and privileged to be able to step into the promises of God’s covenant to His people. As it says above, by entering into that covenant, we are established as God’s people.
When we read the news of wars, terrorist groups, spreading diseases, etc., we may be tempted to feel hopeless about the future. We may wonder if we’ll ever get to the innovations being dreamt up by Disney’s current Imagineers. But, even if we never get to some of the futuristic ideas now being created, we have a futuristic hope planned by the greatest “Imagineer” and Creator ever. He wants us in His “Home of the Future” attraction with such desire that He paid our admission price for us, and it was a huge price. More than an E-ticket* attraction, this one cost Him His all.
*Before one-price park admission, patrons used to buy ticket books with rides designated by the letters “A” through “E.” Of course, A-rides were the lightest and slowest, or kids’ rides while E-rides were the ones everyone wanted to go on. It seems there was also a park admission, but I don’t remember for sure. As an FYI, the Monsanto House of the Future above was actually a free attraction and didn’t require any lettered ticket.
Think about this: If Heaven was a theme park with pre-paid admission, and the throne of God was an E-ticket attraction, would we be willing to pay something more than just accepting His gift of salvation to go before His presence? Do we desire to fall at His feet and worship Him enough to lay down our own will and ways and walk in obedience of His word? As it says in the last verse of the song This is Just What Heaven Means to Me (made popular by Vestal Goodman of “The Happy Goodmans”)…
And when at last we see the face of Jesus Before whose image other loves all flee, And when they crown Him “Lord of All” I’ll be there, For this is just what Heaven means to me.
And that’s my idea of a home of the future.
If you could know your future, would you want to? Would you want to know exactly what person you were going to marry, when you would get married, how many kids you would have, whether or not you would work in your dream career, etc., all before it happened? We all worry about our future (even though we’re not supposed to be anxious about anything), but somehow, I think knowing everything ahead of time would make it boring. We build our strength in our struggles to make the future come out the way we hope.
In today’s reading from Numbers 22:2 through Numbers 22:12, we begin a new week and a new portion. We are now on Parashah 40, titled Balak after the main person in the beginning of the story. Balak, the son of Zippor, is the king of Moab, and he’s been watching the battles between Israel and the Amorites. Now, the Amorites had already defeated Moab in previous wars, so when Balak saw Israel defeat them, he got real afraid real fast. Now, he’s running to the leaders of Midian and trying to provoke them with fear by telling them the Israelites will eat up everything in their land the way the oxen eat up a field of grass.
So Balak decides to get out a message to this guy he knows who apparently lives in the land of his people, the Moabites. He tells the elders to take money and to take the message that a people has come out of Egypt who cover the earth, and now they have moved in right next door to him. He sends this message to a guy named Balaam who is a teller of the future and who has favor with God, so that whoever he blesses is blessed, and whoever he curses is cursed.
Balak tries to put the same fears that he feels into Balaam. He tells him to curse the people because he says there are too many for him to fight, and he says that if the guy will curse them, maybe he will be able to drive them off. Balaam asks the men to stay the night and wait for an answer. He says he can’t promise he will do it because he has to talk to God first and see what He has to say about the situation. By the way Balaam asks God about it, I’m thinking he doesn’t know who the people of Israel are, but when he asks God about it, God tells him not to go with Balak’s servants and not to curse the people because they are a blessed people.
Balak let fictional fears of the future control him instead of turning to the real God for help. He turned to a man who knew the real God, but he didn’t seek God for himself. Had he done that, God would have told him about that blessed people and how a future Moabitess (Ruth) would be in the bloodline of their (and our) Messiah. He would have had reason to care for the people and offer praise to God instead of fearing the people and hoping to manipulate God.
Too many people live as Balak did. They don’t want to see The Ten Commandments on the courthouse walls, or The Holy Bible on the school bookshelf. They fear what these things might mean instead of seeking God to find out what they do mean. They miss out on the peace we have by serving a God we know watches over and cares for us. We don’t know the future either, but we trust the One who created it. We know His plans for our future are only good and include an eternity in His presence. As the hymn says…
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
It’s not science fiction to trust our future to a God so big He can watch over all the world at once and yet count every hair on each person’s head. He will walk with us each and every day of our lives straight into eternity, and that’s all the future we need to know.
Enjoy this version of the song I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Alison Krauss (includes lyrics)…
As I’ve read these prophesies of Jacob to his sons, I’ve thought much about the power of words, but there’s more than words involved. Jacob may have had special feelings toward the children of Rachel, but these were all his sons, so I’m guessing that whatever he spoke to them was spoken with parental love. We are told in multiple Scriptures that God chastens those who He loves, so even the words that seem painful to the receivers are from a father’s heart. And so it is with those of us who call Yahveh our Father. Sometimes, He may give us words that promise futures we may not want to go through, but we know we never go through those futures alone, and we never go through them without promise that they will yield some type of fruit to the glory of God.
Four more sons are discussed in today’s reading from Genesis 49:19 through Genesis 49:26. The sons discussed in today’s reading are Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Joseph. When you read these verses, and yesterday’s verses, in the Complete Jewish Bible, you’ll notice that most of the brothers get their own paragraphs, so it’s easy to tell which ones Jacob spoke of more than others. Of these four brothers, the first three get very little prophesy, but Joseph gets a lot.
In brief, Jacob says that Gad will be attacked, but he will attack in return and be victorious. Asher will produce plenty of food, including that which is considered for royalty. Naphtali is a free-running deer that produces beautiful fawns. Also, it’s possible that the prophesy of Naphtali is that rather than fawns, he will produce great writings. Of course, I like that one for a prophecy. 🙂
The rest of the writing focuses on Joseph. It says he is a fruitful branch by a well whose leaves reach over the wall. I see this as a tree planted by the water, so that speaks of strength, and a bearing a lot of fruit if the branch would hang down over a wall. Since Ephraim is said to represent “the church,” this could be prophesy of those of us reading this who are believers and servants of God now. How cool is that?
It goes on to talk about Joseph being attacked unfairly but that he was separated from his brothers to become a prince among them. Jacob even speaks the blessings of The Lord upon Joseph as being greater blessings than those that were upon his forefathers Abraham and Isaac. Considering the later prophesy when Ephraim will be united with Judah, I’d say Jacob’s words were certainly true.
I will go back and add the details for yesterday’s brothers now, but I wanted to get this post done and added before midnight.
Today’s reading from Genesis 49:1 through Genesis 49:18 covers the prophecies from Israel to the first seven of his sons. Those written of here were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Isaachar, and Dan. Not all of the prophecies for the futures of these sons look like blessings, so I imagine that some of them were hard for Jacob to speak to them. It’s always hard for parents to tell their children the truth, but the lack of truth will do more harm than good, so it’s one of those necessary things. Of course, speaking the future as something negative and without hope may not be the best way to encourage someone either, so it goes back to a saying I heard many years ago, and something I suggest people apply when editing writing for others: Honesty without compassion is cruelty. You’ll have to read it for yourself to decide if the words are honest and compassionate or just honest.
I am actually finishing this post a day later because it was important to me to spend time on the phone with my uncle from Arizona. He was celebrating his 65th birthday, but we also had a lot to talk about concerning his son, my first cousin, who is younger than me but has suffered first from a bad bout of “Valley Fever” (a fungal lung infection that required multiple surgeries), and then suffered two strokes. He’s younger than me, and strokes don’t run in the family, so we think they were side effects of the Fluconozole they put him on for the infection, but regardless of the cause, he has been hospitalized since March. Please keep Chance Robertson in your prayers, not only for physical healing, but that he will use these events to make God the most important part of his life. My uncle has a neighbor who has been bringing Scriptures to him since he has been able to read again, and my uncle is in a place where he prays a lot and says he is willing to change in whatever ways God directs him. That is a great change and blessing to my heart, and it brings me right into what was going on with Jacob and his sons.
I’m sure Jacob would like to have said nothing but good to each of his sons, as any parent would like to do with their children. And I’m sure that even with the news that didn’t seem so good, he would like to have said that each of them would have an opportunity to repent and get it right. Of course, we don’t really know if there was more said, and it is my hope that those who made bad decisions did so with open eyes and minds if they chose to reject God.
So, in brief, Jacob said that Reuben was his first born and the strength of his first offspring, but because he had no self-control and climbed into his father’s bed with one of his concubines, he lost ground and would not have the full strength he should have had. This is the one that bothers me the most because I always hurt for those bad decisions that have consequences that cannot be taken back. All the repentance in the world cannot remove a child conceived by an illicit sexual relationship, and really we should look at the fruit of every sinful seed we plant in this light. We do not receive the true price for our sins (the wages of sin is death) if we give them over to Christ, but they still bear fruit we need to consider. In this case, Reuben missed out on strength he could have had.
Jacob also speaks to Simeon and Levi of losing out because of their uncontrolled anger. They plotted together to kill a man in anger (for raping their sister), but it also says they were cruel and killed animals. Yikes! Their price is being scattered and divided.
Next we get 5 verses on Judah. Remember that our Messiah Yahshua (Jesus) is The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Verse 9 speaks of him as a lion’s cub, a lioness, and a lion on a mountain with prey. The next verse says he will lead and rule until “Shiloh” (meaning Messiah or the peaceful one so the word might actually be another use of “Shalom”) will come from him. It goes on to say people would obey this leadership. Verse 11 seems prophetic of Yahshua in that it says his colt will be tied to a vine (see Mark 11:2 just before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem). It goes on to say that his clothes will be washed in wine and in the blood of grapes. Of course, I’m not sure of the ending words to him of his eyes being darker and more sparkling than wine & his teeth whiter than milk.
The word to Zebulun is that he would be a harbor for lost ships; to Isaachar that he would be a strong donkey crouching between sheepfolds (maybe the Messianic Jews, but I can’t say since I’m not a trained scholar); and to Dan that he would be a judge of his people and a horned snake in the path. Maybe someday, if I remember once I’m in God’s presence for eternity, I’ll ask what some of these prophesies represent, but in the meantime, I’ll be satisfied to receive only what God thinks I need to know. Still, I will search because of what it says in Proverbs 25:2 that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings to search it out.
Today I was privileged to have my husband read to me while I drove back from taking one of my great-nieces back her mother. Sometimes, it seems like I hear much more by being read to than I do by reading to myself. Today’s reading is from Genesis 41:15 through Genesis 41:38, and it continues where we left with Pharaoh bringing in Joseph as a dream consultant.
The first thing I noticed here is how Joseph immediately turned things around when Pharaoh said he was told Joseph could interpret dreams. Joseph said, “It isn’t in me. God will give Pharaoh an answer that will set his mind at peace.” I love that. Here is Joseph’s chance to show off to someone who could really take him places politically, but Joseph stays humble and gives all the credit and glory to God.
So Pharaoh shares all the same information that we read yesterday about the two dreams with fat and skinny cows and with healthy and withered corn. After sharing it, Joseph tells Pharaoh that both dreams were the same dream but that God gave him two dreams because the thing was already settled and getting ready to happen shortly. He explained to him that the immediate future would bring seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of terrible famine that would completely devour everything brought forth during the years of abundance.
The next thing I noticed was how Joseph suggested that Pharaoh handle things. He advised that Pharaoh should take up a twenty percent tax during the years of plenty that would take care of the lack during the years of famine. That extra collection of produce would be stored up to keep people from starving and dying when the going got rough. Joseph also knew that taking in extra could lead to misuse, so he told them they needed someone both discreet and wise to take charge of the collection, storage, and distribution. Pharaoh and his advisors were impressed and said, “Can we find anyone else like him? The Spirit of God lives in him!”
How I wish we could have governments in our world that would have this kind of wisdom. A government that would even listen to dreams and visions, or one that would seek someone who obviously has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, seems impossible now. I wonder if God gave a dream to someone in charge back before the great depression of 1929. I wonder if God has tried to give advice to our leaders about the various wars with which they have aligned themselves. If we would quit listening to human wisdom–that passionate side-taking about being for war or against it, for weapons or against them, etc., and listen for the direction of The One who sees and knows the future, how much more of a future might we have, and how much better might it be? And then I have to look at myself and ask, “Have I been praying enough for the leaders of our land (and the leadership around the world) that God would send them dreams and that they would heed them?” I confess I have not prayed as I should, but I intend to change that. I hope there will be others to join me in this.
Today, we have another short reading of only seven verses. This one, from Genesis 26:23 through Genesis 26:29 is all about the blessings of Isaac and the promises God made to him. In verse 24, Yahveh appears to Isaac and lets him know he has nothing to fear because He is the God of his father, and that means He is the God of him. Yahveh reminds Isaac of the blessings He has in store for his future descendants because of the promises He made to Abraham. And at this point, Isaac builds an altar and worships God.
I don’t remember if Scripture tells us that Isaac ever built an altar to God before, and whether it does or not, I don’t know if he did. In trying to look back over the last few weeks, I don’t think he did, so I’m thinking this is beginning of Isaac’s personal relationship with his Creator. But here is what I find truly interesting about this event. When Isaac dealt with Abimelech before, maybe even expecting the king to defend him as he had done his father, Abimelech suggested he leave town. Now, since Isaac has talked with God, Abimelech and the commander of his army have shown up on Isaac’s doorstep to make sure things are right between them.
In verse 28, after Isaac asks them why they would show up after now after sending his family away (and not defending him against the lying herdsmen who were stealing the wells Isaac dug), Abimelech tells him how they want to make sure that Isaac will not treat them badly because they may have sent him away, but they did so in peace. I can just hear them tripping over their own tongues trying to make sure that Isaac will treat them as friends and not as enemies. And in verse 29, they give away the reason they are so concerned about how he will treat them. They say, “You are now the blessed of the Lord.”
Huh, so when they just thought he was the son of one favored by God, they didn’t defend him, and they sent him away. Their blessings toward him were simply to do him no harm. Oh, but now that they know God is in Isaac’s fan club just like He was in Abraham’s fan club, they want to make sure they’re on the right side of the blessed man.
It’s like people who think they’re special because they get the autograph of someone who is famous to others, as if they’ll be sort of famous by osmosis. I think these guys were thinking that if they befriended someone who was blessed by God that they would get blessed by osmosis. And the funny thing is, Abimelech did the same thing to Abraham, right down to asking for the same protection and bringing up how good they treated him. But if folks want to hang around Christians and treat them well to keep themselves out of trouble, at least that means they can see that we are blessed by Him and walking in His presence. After all, God’s word says He will bless a city for the righteous that live there, so I guess it is in people’s’ best interest to get near those who are blessed by God. But I think it’s even better if we can be the blessed and say, “Guess who is in my fan club? Yep, it’s God Almighty!”
And with that I will close with my report on NaNo that I have reached 12,613 words for day #5. And I’m hoping God is in my reading fan club and will help me turn this one into something because I’m liking what my characters are doing now. Oh, and pardon the use of my “punny” picture for this post. I just liked the idea of showing off my fractalized fan to go with the title. 🙂
It wasn’t that many months ago that I had to make a major move after nearly 19 years of living in the same place. Many years ago, and without nearly as much stuff, I remember thinking what so many of us think, I never want to go through this again. Moving is just plain difficult. Well, imagine what it would have been like way back in Old Testament Bible times when moving may not have meant moving as much stuff as we deal with now, but it did mean moving lots of people (family, servants, etc.), and lots of animals. Plus, it meant huge changes to cultures and traditions in the places you wanted to set up house. And many of those we read about had to move many times over. Today’s short reading from Genesis 26:13 through Genesis 26:22 tells of just such a situation.
From the end of yesterday’s reading and into the beginning of today’s reading, we are told that God blessed and prospered Isaac more and more until he became quite rich. And then we find out that the Philistines began to envy him. They went through the land and put dirt in all the wells his father Abraham dug while he was living. So Isaac, trying not to fight, dug new wells. The first one he dug, God revealed a natural spring, so the envious Philistines claimed it as their own.
Okay, to tell you the truth, I’m getting a bit miffed with these guys now. It doesn’t seem right that Isaac is just doing what is right in God’s eyes and receiving a just reward as a result, but these people seem bent on making his life miserable instead. I mean, why couldn’t they have befriended him and shared in his blessings? That seems like common sense to me, but unfortunately, common sense isn’t all that common, and I guess it never has been. And Isaac seemed to have a better attitude than I think most of us would these days. Instead of fighting, he just dug another well.
As we read on, we find that every time Isaac moved down the road and dug another well, these envious men started a fight over it and said it was their well. They didn’t want him to have what had already been dug (meaning they even buried their own blessings by filling in the wells), and then they fought over every new well he dug. At least as the well-digger, he had the right to name the wells, so he named them words that meant fighting and quarreling. Finally, though, he moved again, and this time he dug a well that no one fought over. He named it “Rehoboth” meaning room or wide open spaces and said, “Now the Lord has made room for us, and we will prosper.” The great attitude that Isaac had made me think of the title for this post which comes from the song of the same name. While I haven’t yet seen The Wiz, I have always liked the song. One line in it says, “Don’t you carry nothin’ that might be a load, come on and ease on down, ease on down the road.” I think Isaac did well at not carrying argument, resentment, or his own envy against these men who had set themselves up as his enemies.
One final thought: Maybe our land here in the United States was settled in a similar way. Men got tired of quarreling, so they set off for a new land where they could prosper. They still had to fight for it, whether fighting the original inhabitants, fighting those who wanted them back under their rule, or fighting the land and weather and illness. But they did make it a prosperous place, and they gave God praise for it. Now, we have envious people that want to “stop up our wells” and fight over what we claim through our original Constitution. Many have walked away and just gathered in states with like-minded folks who believe in the same history, but the envious have pushed to take over and take away our rights now in almost every part of our land. Sadly, we are probably going to have to fight another war within our own borders or ease on down the road and hope for another place to build a dream while the ungrateful destroy what our founding fathers built. But we must pray and ask God whether He wants us to fight or move. And when we get His answer, it might just be to wait because He has plans to ease us down the road into the New Heaven and New Earth where we will prosper and where we’ll never have to move again.
BTW, just to keep stepping stones on my daily word counts, my NaNo total for day #4 is 9487.
…but you can’t make the girl give it a drink. Of course, Abraham’s servant knew that, so he prayed and asked the Lord to give him a sign that he was on the right path. Today we read in Genesis 24:10 through 24:26 a short but hopeful jumping off place for the rest of the story about Isaac and Rebekah (called Yitzchak and Rivkah in the Complete Jewish Bible).
The servant makes it to his destination, and he is near the home of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. He’s supposed to pick out a wife from the neighborhood and hope she is family, so he can bring the girl back for Isaac to marry. If it were me, I’d be a bit uncertain too. I mean, he knows that if he doesn’t find the right one, he is released from his obligation, but he also knows and cares for his master’s plan.
And here, I want to talk about signs for a moment. The New Testament tells us that an adulterous and sinful generation seeks after a sign, so I hear a lot of people suggest that God’s people should never seek a sign from God. But I don’t believe that particular text is talking about the kind of sign the servant is requesting in today’s study. His purpose in requesting a sign is to be pleasing to his master and maybe even to God. (The text leaves me a bit uncertain as to if the servant actually served Yahveh Almighty, but he definitely believed and prayed to “his master’s” God.) I think those referred to as adulterous and sinful are those who are looking for some mystical sign before they will give up their sinful ways to follow God. When God’s children ask for a sign to know we are pleasing to Him, it is out of our love for Him and our desire to do well.
Now, back to the servant. He says that when he sees a girl come to the well for water, he will ask her for a drink. He asks for a sign that if she gives him water and then offers to water his camels as well, he will know she is the one for Isaac and that God has shown him favor. When he sees the beautiful and single Rebekah, he starts his plan into action, and she immediately begins the task of providing water for the servant and all his camels. When he asks her whose child she is, she tells him she is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor, and in this she confirms that God has indeed blessed the servant in his task for his master.
Sometimes, it’s hard to know what sign to ask for because we might be concerned we’re asking for something that could happen anyway–like a girl offering to water thirsty camels. But if our hearts are pure in our requests, I believe God loves to show off and confirm His word and His directions to us. There is so much blessing to come out of the future of Isaac and Rebekah, so of course God would confirm His words and the desires of His faithful Abraham. We too have blessed futures that God wants to lead us into if we are willing to follow. And sometimes, if we need a reminder that we’re on the right path, I believe God will give us the confirmation we need to either keep going along the road we’re on or make a turn. May His perfect will be done in all things. Amen!
The reading for today is all in Genesis 9 and is a very short set of verses from 8 through 17. Noah, his family, and the animals are off the boat. Noah has offered the first sacrifice to show his thankfulness for their salvation. And now, with this family ready to replenish the earth, God has made a promise, and he has given a sign for that promise that we still see today; the rainbow.
I downloaded an image I really like by rwangsa at Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rwangsa/452128709/)…
You know, there are many gods out there that people try to please with various works, but most of them are just trying to get those gods to carry them to an eternal paradise. They will give it all for a promise that may or may not be true. But our God and Creator, Yahveh Almighty, has promised us so much more than an eternity in paradise. He has plans so awesome that He says they haven’t even found a way to enter into our thoughts or imaginations.
I was talking with a friend today, and we were discussing what we have with God that so many others do not have with their gods. The greatest thing we have of course is His Love. It’s not just an end game, but a gift He desires to shower on us in every moment. He wants us to trust Him so much that you will see many covenants He makes with His people throughout Scripture. This covenant in today’s reading is not only a promise, but a promise that comes with a sign both to us and to Him. He says that when we see it, we can remember His promise to us. And He says that whenever He brings clouds upon the earth, He Himself will see the sign and remember His promises. It’s like two best friends that tie a string around each others’ wrists or pinky fingers to remind the other that they will be best friends forever. God is our best Friend, a covenant Friend and a covenant God, who will be there for us…forever! Hallelu-Yah!!!
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