Christianity 201

November 6, 2020

The Tribe from which Kings Would Come

Today we return to the website ThisIsToday.com which is based on the Today devotional booklets, a daily resource widely circulated in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in the U.S. and Canada. The writer featured this month is Michigan pastor Darrin Compagner. Use the titles in the two devotions we selected to go to the website and then use the left and right arrows to see the entire series on this theme.

Royal Promise

Scripture Reading — Genesis 17:1-8, 15-16

“I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” — Genesis 17:6

Our story begins with humans called to reflect the rule and reign of God (Genesis 1:26-29). But people turned away, seeking to build their own kingdoms. This quickly turned to violence and oppression, and now humanity lives in rebellion rather than in harmony with God’s rule (Genesis 3-11).

Even so, God called Abraham and Sarah. He came into their lives to make covenant promises, to reestablish them as a people living in harmony with God as King.

Abraham and Sarah were an old and childless couple. The new start God made with them didn’t look very promising. But God makes promises in unpromising situations. God promised to be their God, to bless them, and to make them a blessing on the earth.

Then, tucked in with this packet of promises came a power­ful little seed. God said to Abraham, “Kings will come from you,” and God said about Sarah, “Kings of peoples will come from her.” What would that have been like—to hear God say that your descendants would be kings and queens on the earth?

God is in the business of reestablishing right kingship on the earth. His promises to Abra­ham and Sarah would, in time, bear good fruit for their descendants and for the whole earth.

Looking for a Leader

Scripture Reading — Genesis 49:8-12

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his. Genesis 49:10

Every human organization needs leadership. Schools, businesses, governments, and churches all seek competent and faithful leaders. What makes for a good leader? Strength? Vision? Good looks? Age? Character? Shrewdness?

Families need good leadership too, including the family of God’s people. Yesterday we considered how Abraham and Sarah were chosen, along with their descendants. Through them, God was reestablishing his rule of righteousness in a fallen world.

But the story that follows in Genesis shows a family that gradually descends into chaos. This is what happens in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and his twelve sons: fear leads to unfaithfulness; deception leads to betrayal and broken trust; favoritism leads to envy and hatred. But God spares this family and keeps it together—because God keeps his promises. In our reading today from Genesis 49, Judah, one of Israel’s sons, is named as the main tribe from whom kings would come.

The New Testament also reveals later that Jesus is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). He is the true King whom God promised would come, and he will restore God’s rule of righteousness forever.

Prayer (Royal Promise)

Lord God, thank you for your promises. Fill us with your Spirit so that your kingdom may come and your will may be done in us this day. Amen.

Prayer (Looking for a Leader)

Almighty Father, we thank you for sending Jesus, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” to save us from chaos and destruction. By his rule, guide us to live for you and to follow your good ways each day of our lives. Amen.

March 20, 2015

The Lord Promised, The Lord Came, The Lord Acted

HCSB Gen. 21:1 The Lord came to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised.

NLT Gal. 4:28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac.

Today’s devotional is from a source that’s new for us, it’s called Barenuckle Bible. I really like the clarity with which the author, John Myer writes. Click the title below to read at source, and then take a few minutes to look around the site.

Going the Distance Into the Depths of Grace

Stats.

That’s a scary word for college students.  I remember the class.  A few of us picked up the concepts quickly.  The rest prayed and stayed up late with homework and energy drinks.  We went to tutors who confused us a little more. We bought extra books—Stats Whiz! Become a Statistician in an Hour—that didn’t help much.  We went to prep sessions for quizzes and figured we might want to choose a different major, like police sketch artist, or well…anything that didn’t intersect stats.  In a vulnerable moment one guy even told me he was close to tears.  He’d probably never admit to it today, though.

The point is, everybody had the same material to learn, but different experiences while learning it.

The Christian life works the same way.  Yes, we’re all going through different things at different times, but we’re learning the identical subject matter enclosed in 66 books.  Consider Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Their lives are actually a template for all believers.

Of the three, the story of Isaac’s life occupies the shortest space in the book of Genesis.  The Bible focuses less on what he did and more on what he was.  Isaac is typically known as the “child of promise.”  He embodies grace, which means God’s free act of giving.  Free. That’s attractive sounding, but difficult to grasp.  We don’t trust the concept of “free” very much.  At my house, anything that arrives in the mail saying “Free” on it, earns a trip straight to the trash.

But the grace of God is real.

In Genesis, God had promised a son to Abraham and Sarah.  They were old, past the age of childbearing, so this baby was supposed to be a free gift to them.  But it was difficult for them to take the promise at face value.  After all, from the human perspective, reproduction looked impossible.

Since it began to take a long time, both Abraham and Sarah decided to do various things to “help” God’s promise come true a little faster.  At one point Abraham tried to name his servant as legal heir of his estate.  Abraham probably thought that’s what God meant when He promised me offspring—it was just a figure of speech.  But God further clarified by telling Abraham that his heir would actually come from his physical body.

Still, grace is tough to believe.  Since Sarah was nursing home age, she assumed that the baby would be Abraham’s, but not hers.  No way.  She went and got her servant woman, Hagar, and gave the woman to Abraham as a surrogate.  Sarah thought, “The child will be mine by adoption.”  Abraham agreed with the arrangement.  The result was a son, but not the one God promised.

Then the Lord did His work of grace—a miracle apart from their manipulations.  Genesis 21:1 said the Lord promised, the Lord visited, the Lord did. The old lady had a baby.  In v. 6 Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me.”  That’s the result of grace—happiness, refreshment, relief, amazement.  Sarah added, “All who hear will laugh over me” because grace is catching.  It spreads.  Once it gets into a person, it affects the whole environment.  She even named the boy Isaac, which means laughter.

Galatians 4:28 says we believers, as Isaac, are children of promise.  Your second birth was a miracle because at some point in your life, three things have taken place:  God visited, God promised, and God did.  Hopefully, you rejoiced.

First, God spoke a promise.  It was through others, no doubt, but He promised salvation to you in the name of Jesus.  When you believed, then He visited.  He came to your heart with his Holy Spirit, and then He did something—He regenerated you, gave you new life.  It was the second birth.

In a manner of speaking, I tried to pull this off a few times—the whole “make yourself a good Christian guy.”  It would never stick past a week.  Then I ran into grace and God did what I couldn’t do. That was thirty years ago.

But Isaac’s story doesn’t end with his remarkable birth. The grace of God keeps going.  Isaac was born into wealth, so we don’t seem him working, struggling, to gather riches.  They were his from the start.  That’s grace.  This is like Ephesian 1:3 where it says God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

We all start in the position of incredible glories (read all of Ephesians chapter 1).  We don’t try to earn them.  Sometimes believers focus on stuff they don’t have, and spend a lot of time trying to gather it.  We don’t know or appreciate what already belongs to us.  If we did, the anger and bitterness would subside.  We’d laugh because we could.

Grace creates a lot of odd juxtapositions.  That’s why we can laugh while crying, rest while working, be filled while wanting, and hope while in the pit of disappointment.

And that’s why, regardless of what’s on your driver’s license, your name is always just Isaac.

November 27, 2010

Laughter is a “Surprise” Reaction

Today’s post is written by Randy Bohlender, a blogger I once linked to at Thinking Out Loud, but had lost track of.   This is a longer post, but a must read.     It appeared at his blog under the title, Laughing When It’s Not Funny

We use humor or laughter to try to cover a multitude of things.

When children say something particularly cutting and then realize they’ve stepped over the line and someone’s feelings were truly hurt, they throw the smokescreen of ‘just kidding’.

Adults, on the other hand, use the laughter escape hatch to avoid dealing with their own pain. “Did I dream that? Was I hoping to accomplish that? That’s a joke. I never meant it. I’m fine. No, really…”.

Most of you know that I’m on this Bible reading kick, my second 90 day lap through the scriptures. I’ve been overwhelmed at the number of people who’ve decided to do this at the same time – I wish I’d kept track, but my guess is I’ve heard of nearly fifty people from across the nation and faith spectrum. I’m loving it.

I couldn’t help but think of those people this morning as i read about Sarah, hiding behind the curtain, listening to her husband entertain heavenly guests. When they spoke to him about Sarah having a child in her old age, she laughed.

It was ludicrous, wasn’t it? It was silly. It was unheard of. So she laughed. Besides, laughter was easier than tears, and there had been so many tears over this issue.

She and her husband had been married many long years but no child had been born to them. It wasn’t for lack of desire. In a culture that very much understood the power of family lineage, it wasn’t just a desire, it was a necessity. To have a child was to have a future. To grow old without children meant a miserable existence. She’d longed…and hoped…but to no avail.

It’s not hard to identify with her. We’ve all wanted something so badly that it hurt – often times things that God would desire us to want. We’ve all dreamed God dreams in the dark of night and wondered if the dawn would ever come. Sarah had decided that the night season was her lot in life. A child was not coming. It was easier to laugh than it was to cry because it helped her keep up the facade that it didn’t really matter. She was fine, really. What a hoot – a child in her old age.

Except that it wasn’t fine.

The ache was still there.

It might seem cruel to stir the dead dream of an old woman…unless you’ve got the power to bring it to pass. God had watched her hope, He had watched her pray, and He had watched her give up. Now, He watched her laugh….laugh at the thought that He might be true to His word, not because she thought it was funny, but because it was her only ‘out’ from under the weight of the dream.

Of course, a few chapters later, much to her shock, her dream lives. A little boy is born. The realization of her dream is so much more than she ever imagined. She holds him close at night and she remembers the day she laughed and the countless nights she cried. In that moment, she knows better than anyone where life comes from and who brings dreams back from the dead.

A vast percentage of people on this Bible reading journey are laughing to cover tears over a dead dream. Let Sarah’s story be a lesson – God has the last laugh.

If it was His dream, it didn’t die. In the fullness of time, it will be all He promised. You can laugh if you want to.

In addition to being a husband and father, Randy Bohlender and his wife Kelsey founded The Zoe Foundation, which uses various means to help facilitate adoption, which makes this particular Bible story, I’m sure, all that more relevant.