The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 17

16 09 2009

Click here to read the full text of Genesis 17.

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
– Genesis 17: 20-21

So there’s part of the answer to my earlier musings, although it raises a few more questions, as well. God did intend to bless Ishmael, after all! But  … Ishmael’s descendants will apparently not be part of THE covenant (although Ishmael does have to be circumcised, as a sign of the covenant–seems  like he’s getting the bad end of the deal!). And somehow, Ishmael’s descendants will indeed be blessed through THE COVENANT(because all nations will be blessed through Abraham).

So what exactly is the purpose of this covenant, if you can be blessed without being a direct recipient?

Here’s my take on it: God is setting apart a certain group of people who will be consecrated through him. Through outward signs (circumcision) and inward signs (the legacy of Abrahamic faith), they are to demonstrate in all that they do, that they are God’s people. He’s setting up the system through which He will eventually give the Law, and the Prophets, and the Messiah. The covenant is not just a blessing; with it comes great responsibility.

And this will continue to happen throughout Genesis: a younger son receives the inheritance and finds favor with God. The older brother doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong–he just is not chosen to carry on the covenant.

(Think about spiritual gifts. Just because someone is given the gift of preaching, for instance, does not mean that he is “better” than someone with another gift. But because of his gift, he might be called into ministry as a full-time career—and this calling will ultimately help to sustain God’s church)

I have to constantly keep reminding myself that this covenant, at least, is not necessarily equated with salvation. God is not cutting off Ishmael’s descendants from ever being able to know Him; if sola fide applies, then the descendants of both Isaac and Ishmael will ultimately be saved by faith and not by whether or not they are part of the covenant.

Does that make any sense at all? What’s your take on it?

(originally posted 12/23/08 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)

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The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 15-16

25 08 2009

Click here to read the full text of Genesis 15-16.

God cares about Hagar…right?

I wrestled with this question while reading today’s passage.  Here’s why:

– God (or more accurately, the angel of the LORD) talked to Hagar, even though women didn’t have equal status in those days.
– God found Hagar when she was wandering and lost in the desert.
– God called Hagar by name at a time when Sarai merely referred to her as “my servant.”
– God listened to Hagar when she was being mistreated.
– God blessed Hagar, using words reminiscent of his promise to Abram: “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” (v.10)

So far, so good. Right?

But then, he goes on to say this of Hagar’s son:
“He will be a wild donkey of a man
His hand will be against everyone
And everyone’s hand against him,
And he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

What kind of blessing is this, exactly? Or is it even a blessing at all? A half-blessing, perhaps? A curse? A prophecy?

Is God trying to get back at Sarai and Abram for their lack of faith? If so, why punish Hagar? If God really is going to use Abram to bless all the nations, wouldn’t it seem logical to start with Hagar the Egyptian?

Interestingly, though, Hagar doesn’t protest or even plead with God. She doesn’t seem to care if God has blessed her or cursed her. She merely proclaims that God is the Living One who has seen her.

The Bible doesn’t make note of any inflections in Hagar’s voice as she names God. I picture her saying “the God who sees me,” with breathless awe, as though she has been unspeakably moved by this encounter. But I suppose it’s equally possible that she said those words with dejected resignation–as if to say, “God sees me & I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.”

God sees the good, the bad, the past, the present, the future. Before him, no things are hidden. In our relationship with him, we can be vulnerable, we can be raw, we can be real.

Hagar obeyed God, returning home to her cruel mistress. Here again, we see that worshipping God is intrinsically tied up in faith and obedience. She believed that the Lord was “The God Who Sees Me,” and she obeyed the one command he gave her.

She knew what lay ahead for her family: mistreatement, misery, hostility. But the even greater truth was that God had seen her, and would continue to see her. He had called her by name and responded to her. He had even named the unborn child in her womb!

As much as I would like to become indignant at God for Hagar’s sake, I must remember that she saw the very presence of God and accepted what He had given her. Somehow, I must do the same.

(originally posted 12/22/09 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)