January 27, 2013

I still like desert stories.


I study God's word through an international organization called  Bible Study Fellowship, of which there are a few groups here in Atlanta. We're working through Genesis this year, hence the Abraham/Sarah post earlier.

The Bible scene is set: the important-name characters are doin' their thing, walking through their faith, and God nudges me to look over at the side story.


Maybe it's because my heart recently found out about and now bleeds over the 27 million human beings trapped in slavery today. 200,000 in my so-called civil and just country. Many woman. Many trafficked for their bodies.

Used for sex.

So here we are in BSF, my faith being rocked with the whole Abraham storyline when I re-meet Hagar.

Can't you just see her? Dark eyes, dark skin. This Egyptian slave, probably part of the wealth Pharaoh granted Abraham to get the heck out of Egypt in Genesis 12:16. A pagan slave. From a very advanced, sophisticated country. Probably treated well, but at the end of the day, Hagar was about a month's journey of 250 miles from home. This elderly couple was not her family. They worshiped a God that her nation didn't include in their line up of nine gods. Hagar's very name means "stranger."

In his understandable desperation to have the child God promised him, Abraham pulls the ole I'll-solve-it-myself trick. And I'm a big fan of being REAL when we talk about scripture: Sarah pulls in the slave girl. Hagar sits on Sarah's lap while Abraham impregnates her. Because that's how the law said to solve the problem of no-heir. Hagar never had a voice. And as we need to be very, very cautious when reading the Bible not to make guesses, know I'm careful not to add to scripture in the words below. Some scholars think a slave woman would jump at the opportunity to socially climb. Maybe she did. We do not know.

But I'm a woman. And I know how God put it in our hearts to have a family. And my soul can't rest thinking that this is what she had planned when she was a little girl growing up in Egypt.

Can you imagine what she felt like. I mean, can you imagine ...

Obviously, things go south. Hagar flees to the desert. Super welcoming spot when you're lonely and pregnant, I bet. Morning sickness was probably only matched with the dizzying nausea that comes from feeling totally used. She's tired. She's alone. Can we see a bit of ourselves in her, sister?

But then something unparalleled in scripture happens.

The Lord meets her. Looks in her bloodshot (just surmising) dark eyes and asks "where have you come from, and where are you going?" He continues, "I will give you more children than you can count. You will give birth to a son and name him Ishmael." (Ishmael means 'God hears.') And this broken, exhausted, alien woman looks at Him and gives the Lord a name: "You are the God who sees me ... 'I have now seen 'the One Who Sees Me.'"

El Roi. 
The One Who Sees Me.

It's unparalleled: no other Sunday School felt board character in the Old Testament looks at God and gives him a name. But do you know who does? The peculiar, broken Egyptian maidservant runaway.

Because that's how He works. We learn lessons in the desert (Hosea 2:14). He takes dirty hands and cleans them. "He turns lullabies into anthems." He sees us where we are. Meets us there.

I just really like that story.

January 10, 2013

You finish what you begin.

But Abram said, "O Soverign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inerit my estate is Eliezer of Damascas?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children, so a servant in my household will be my heir."

There's a nuance there. Don't miss it: Abram references local custom, local law of the land. He sighs, breathes deep, and shuffles the Rubix cube of prophecies one more time, trying to make all the white dots stay on one side. As he prays in Genesis 15, he vocalizes thoughts to the Lord. "God, was I half crazy when I heard you promise me a child through whom your promises would come? No. I know I wasn't ... So Eliezar, right? That's what you meant. Right? My servant guy? That works with the local custom. So he must be the heir you mentioned, right?"

Nuzi tablets carefully chisled with Akkadian script spell it out: barren couples could adopt a servant as their own son, and after they died the estate was rightfully his. Potentially a lucky guy, that Eliezar kid.

It only made sense.
The law of the land. 
The local custom.
It was a perfect fit for childless Abram and Sarai.
Naturally, Abram's brain went there.

But the story goes on, Abram leans into God's promise as God says "NO, my child. HE will come from YOUR body. In fact, he's the beginning of a multitude of children." God so loves Abram that he seals the deal with a covenant. In time, Sarai brings her precious firstborn into the word. Years pass. More years pass. Jesus Christ is born of the same line, and he gives life to multitudes. And God is good on his word.

"God never adjusts His commands to fit the customs of nations, no matter how deeply ingrained they are."
- Beth Moore

And my God, how this is our own story: A word, a command, a vision from the Lord and I'm off. At about step three down the path, insert speed bump as Person A doesn't respond like I hoped to the request the Lord said for me to take to Person A's feet. "Ah. Jesus. You are so crazy. I totally see what you did there. Don't you worry! They probably thought I said something weird. Man, are you lucky I'm such a good fixer." And we put that word, that command from the Lord within confines. Politcally correct confines of how you're supposed to behave as educated adult, or supposed to make money, or whatever. Sometimes it's like I'm afraid to be peculiar and more times I'm afraid he won't be faithful. And I'm writing this tiny-ly because I am so sad I ever think that.

Are you ever like that?

But He is so sweetly lately saying, "Oh my daughter. Believe. Just believe me at my WORD for I am good on that word. When, in the history of TIME have I in majesty and justice and peace and love shown myself as faithless? When? Point to a time if so. Even when you are faithless, I'm faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). I promise. Fall into my commands for I will do great things through my children."

God delights in impossibilities. 

He will do immeasurably more.

He will do immeasurably more for His glory through us if we believe.

"But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?* But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."

- Romans 8:25
* That's a dang good question, Paul.

photo credit: 1
blog post title: "Lord Our God" by Krisitan Stanfill

January 7, 2013

Esther 4:14

"Wake up, child,
It's your time to shine.
You were born for such a time as this.

I am royalty,
I have destiny,
I have been set FREE."

- Jesus Culture, "The Anthem"

photo credits: 1
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