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)

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The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 13-14

21 08 2009

Click here to read the full text of Genesis 13 and 14.

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.
– Genesis 13:3-4

So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.
– Genesis 13:18

What is it with this guy?? Everywhere he goes, he stops and builds an altar to the Lord–and he doesn’t just leave them there, he comes back and revisits them. So, presumably, you could follow in his footsteps through this trail of altars. Which leads me to wonder: what kind of trail are we leaving? Bread crumbs? Footprints? Or … altars? Is worship our first impulse at every step of our spiritual journey?

Enough with the rhetorical questions. What really interests me about this passage is what Abram does once he gets to the altar: he “calls upon the name of the Lord.” He did it in the last chapter, too. (In fact, we are told in Genesis 4, that Adam’s children’s generation was the first to do so!) We’re back to this whole concept of names–only this time, it’s God’s name that is in question.

And, according to the scholarly view, Abram doesn’t even know God’s name (YHWH) yet! That doesn’t happen until chapter 15!

Over the past few years, I’ve wrestled a lot with the idea of a chosen people. It just doesn’t seem fair. If God originally intended to extend salvation to everyone (as we believe happened with Christianity), why didn’t he just do it to begin with? And why does Jesus say that salvation comes from the Jews? Why would Jesus endorse Jewish legalism, when it seems to be contrary to everything else he says?

But Abram is praised for his faith. His salvation does not come from his obedience–not really. He obeys because he is faithful. He brings salvation to his nation through his own faith. And the generations that follow are given a legal code which sets them apart. They obey the laws, and they go through the motions of worship, because they believe in this strange, omnipotent God.  The idea of “salvation by faith” is at the core of Judaism, too, it appears. It is a supreme leap of faith to allow yourself to be set apart as a nation.

I also have, at times, found myself questioning the fairness of Jesus’ coming so late in the Bible. What about all the faithful people in the Old Testament who came before Jesus? Were they “saved”?  I don’t have the answer, nor will I ever claim to, but I offer up this verse as food for thought:

“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
– Joel 2:32a

(originally posted 9/1/08 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)