Pictures of Faith: Certain Provision—Genesis 37

Have you ever wondered why God is so quiet in the midst of your life circumstances?

Reading through the Old Testament would seem to suggest we might expect God to be “louder”. In Genesis 15, God confirmed Abraham’s faith by localizing His glory into a shape and passing through pieces of severed animals, covenantally putting Himself on the hook for sinners. In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with “a man” we later recognize to be the pre-incarnate Christ in the form of man, though not yet in the flesh of man. But then we come to Genesis 37, the section leading to the culmination of Genesis, and in the life of Joseph we resonate with the way God deals with His covenant people Israel. He’s quiet, working through the circumstances of Joseph’s life. And, in observing God’s plan of redemption for Joseph and his family in the midst of circumstances, we learn something about the ways of God in our own lives as well.

God’s plan of redemption for Joesph and his family was carried out through family brokenness (:1-11). In reading the account we know something Joseph and his family didn’t yet know: There’s about to be a severe famine, and everybody who isn’t provided for is going to die! How will God care for His covenant people? He’ll work through one very dysfunctional family.

The account begins (verse 3) with Joseph—the favorite son of his father— pasturing his father’s flocks with his half-brothers. Tension develops when Joseph brings a bad report to his father involving his brothers’ misconduct. The text says, literally, that after that, “They added still to hate him … and couldn’t speak peacefully to him” (:4). Joseph might have contributed brokenness as well, since the word “bad report” is related to the word “to whisper”. Perhaps, he’s a snitch, a tattle-tail.

But God is in all this. Joseph has two dreams. He dreams (verse 5) that he and his brothers were bundling sheaves in the fields and his brothers’ sheaves bowed down to his. Then (verse 9), he dreams that the sun and moon and stars bowed down to him. The symbolic meaning isn’t lost on his family: “Are you indeed to reign over us?” his brothers ask. “Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” his father asks. Joseph doesn’t seem too guarded in sharing his dream. Perhaps there’s a layer of pride God is addressing in the circumstances to come.

Sin often runs in families, doesn’t it? And the setting of God’s redemption of the covenant family serves to remind us that God works especially in flawed family situations like yours, and like mine. 

God’s plan of redemption for Joseph and his family was carried out through plans of sinners (:12-28). The story develops when Jacob, the father, sends his favorite son out to look for his other sons. Joseph doesn’t find them where they’re supposed to be but twelve miles to the north. And as they see their brother approaching wearing his multi-colored coat (the symbol of his father’s affection) they say, “Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of these pits” (:20). One brother intervenes, so Joseph ends up alive in the pit, but as he’s shouting from the bottom of the pit he has to be thinking about the experience of his great-grandfather and father, noting that he’s among the only righteous ones in the covenant family and asking, “Where is God?! Why doesn’t God make Himself big and loud in my circumstances?”

God’s plan of redemption for Joseph and his family was carried out through unresolved grief (:29-36). Joseph is sold to some traders, and his brothers prepare the rouse by slaughtering a goat and dipping Joseph’s precious robe in the blood. “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not,” they request of their father. Jacob weeps inconsolably, and though he’ll find consolation at the end of the story he’ll go for years believing his son is dead.

All this serves to remind us how senseless our grief might seem in the moment. Like Jacob, we might go years not seeing what God is doing. Maybe, God’s work will remain quiet and hidden to us for the remainder of our lives. But, He is working …

Verse 36 is a transition to the rest of the story. Joseph is sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. And, in the next chapters, we’ll see Joseph bring glory  to God: “It is not to me [to interpret dreams]; God will give Pharaoh an answer” (chapter 41). God will reveal to Pharaoh through Joseph that there will be a great famine; Joseph will be raised to a position of greater authority in Egypt; and Joseph’s brothers will come to him, bow down and be saved.

So, here’s the story, big picture: If Joseph doesn’t get down to Egypt to become prime minister, everybody’s dead … If Joseph doesn’t get thrown into the pit, everybody’s dead … If Joseph doesn’t obey his father to go looking for his brothers, everybody’s dead. Joseph’s account ends in chapter 50 with one of the great summary statements of the Bible: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as we are today (50.20). God not only ordained the end in Joseph’s life, He ordained the means as well.

Joseph’s story also points us to somebody else. There was once another son who (really!) lived an impeccable life, and He was the favorite of His Father. And one day He was obedient to go looking for His brothers, and He found them in the wrong place. And they hated Him, and they stripped Him of His garments, and they killed Him, and He went down to the pit of death. But God raised Him and He went on ahead of us as the first-born from among the dead. And, if Jesus doesn’t die and go down to the pit of death for us, everybody’s dead!

God never turned up like a bolt of lightening in Joseph’s life, but He’s there working through (not in spite of) the details of Joseph’s life, just as He did in the life of our Lord.

Israel needed this message. They needed to remember as they crossed into the Land of Promise that the whole reason they had been removed to Egypt involved God’s plan for their redemption. Likewise, we need to remember that God’s sovereign plan for us will be accomplished in Christ through the circumstances of our lives.

What circumstances has God allowed into your life? Talk to God about this, why don’t you? Ask Him to open your eyes to make you sensitive to what He’s doing in your life and family through your circumstances. Maybe you won’t understand everything right away. Joseph didn’t. But, if you’re in Christ He will accomplish His purpose for your life, and He’ll use those circumstances that you might prefer to have removed to do so.

And, like Joseph, you and I might learn to say: God’s sovereign plan for me will be accomplished in Christ through the circumstances of my life. 

Pictures of Faith—Certain Victory! Genesis 32.22-32

Have you ever striven with God? Do you strive with Him still?

Such striving might look like the desire to relate to God through performance. Or, it might look like trying to wrestle something from Him—some perceived entitlement, or something your sense of justice requires, perhaps.

The biblical patriarch Jacob knew a lot about striving—about wrestling, with everybody. Today in Genesis 32 we see Jacob carrying on the family quest for blessing with God. But, will he receive it by faith? Or, will he try to wrestle it from God on his own terms?

Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, received God’s call in the ancient land of Ur. And, some 2,000 years before Christ, Abraham became the father of all who would respond to God by faith (Genesis 15.6; Galatians 3.7). Taking God at His word (that He would bless Abraham and His descendants with land, a descendant—the promised redeemer, it turns out!—and a blessing for the whole earth), Abraham departed for the land God showed him. And, he became the paradigm for those who are saved by faith—faith in Jesus, for us; faith in a promised redeemer, for those coming before Christ.

Read Genesis 32.22-33, why don’t you? Then, notice a few results of Jacob’s striving.

Jacob’s striving resulted in his being alone (:22-24a) Jacob had always been a heal-grabber. That’s what his name means. He’d been the favorite of his mother and had always striven for his father’s affection. In doing so, he’d tricked his brother, Esau, out of the family blessing. He’d impersonated his brother in deceiving his father. He’d fled to his uncle, Laban, only to be tricked into marrying Laban’s older daughter, Leah, but had then gotten his uncle back through some brilliant, if pre-scientific, trickery with goats and genetic engineering. Now, Jacob is headed home and must face his brother, Esau. His servants inform him (32.6), We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him. 

Don’t blame Jacob for being afraid. He sends gifts on ahead to his brother whom he assumes to be angry. He sends his family on ahead. And then, he remains alone, on the far side of the River Jabbok, just across from the Promised Land. And, he meets God …

This alone is instructive for us. When we come to the end of our ourselves each of us must do business with God, alone. So, if you face surgery, your friends and church family might rally around you, but you go under the gas by yourself. In the same way, we’ll each stand before God alone, and there will be no props or crutches or anybody (but Christ!) to hide behind.

Jacob’s striving brought him to weakness (:24b-25). And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day … (:24b). Didn’t see that coming, did we? Even so, there’s word-play to suggest that Jacob’s life had been pointing toward this encounter his whole life. YaKov … YaBok … YeVek. These are the Hebrew words for “Jacob,” “Jabbok” and the action of wrestling. The word root of the three common consonants means “to get dusty”. Everything about this passage points to Jacob’s striving. This man is standing between Jacob and his objective.

When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him (:25).

First, who is this man? The “Angel of God” or the “Angel of the LORD” appears throughout the Old Testament. He claims divine authority, exhibits divine attributes, performs divine actions, receives divine homage, and identifies Himself as God. (Check out last week’s passage, Genesis 22.15-16, as an example.) His appearances grow more seldom as we approach the coming of Christ, until we come to a different messenger who identifies himself as Gabriel “who stands in the presence of God”.

We’re looking in this passage at the pre-incarnate Christ! Christ in the form of man, though not yet in the flesh of man. Familiar New Testament passages help us see how appearances of Christ (we dare not yet name Him Jesus!) are much in keeping with Christ’s shepherding of God’s elect throughout all time.

Consider, for example, Colossians 1.16-17: For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

And, while Christ wrestles with Jacob, He “… did not prevail against Jacob”. How so? Certainly, we’re looking here at a foreshadowing of Jesus’ limiting of Himself at the incarnation. We might also be looking at Christ’s unwillingness to override Jacob’s will. Jacob is about to give in, but he needs to be weakened first. And, he is weakened, at the point where Christ simply touches him. I believe this is where Jacob, finally, is saved!

There’s something for us to learn about faith here. Faith is the recognition of our own weakness and the embracing of the strength of another. Those of us who have trusted in Christ have done this. And, I believe, Jacob finally ceases striving and depends on God here.

Jacob’s striving ends in blessing (:26-32). The passage ends with four exchanges:

The first is about the source of blessing (:26). Man: Let me go, for the day has broken. Jacob: I will not let you go unless you bless me. Notice that he’s fought the man, now he’s clinging to Him. It’s like he’s saying, I’ve tried to get the blessing for myself, now I realize you had it all along.

The second exchange is about the condition of blessing (:27). Man: What is your name? Jacob: Jacob. In saying this, Jacob is acknowledging that he is a striver.

The third exchange is about dominion (:28-29a). Man: Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed. Jacob: Please tell me your name. Notice here that the one naming exercises dominion. (Think of Adam in naming the animals.) Notice, also, that Israel means, “one who strives with God”. Jacob has fought everybody, and but for God’s mercy he’d persist in having his own way with God as well.

The fourth exchange is about mercy (:29b). Man: Why is it that you ask my name? There’s a break in the pattern here. The man’s question reminds us of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. In the end, God asks the questions, and the one asked responds in faith.

Jacob: So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 

Then Jacob limps off to meet Esau having discovered weakness. And (the next chapter shows), he reconciles with his brother, because those who have made peace with God are free to make peace n the horizontal plain of human relationships.

There’s abundant application for Israel here, the first readers of this passage.  In the Wilderness, before entering the Promised Land, they needed to remember that their strength would not be as the strength of other nations. There’s, likewise, application of us. What did Jacob plead for from the man?: Please tell me you name!

We know His name: His name is Jesus. And, at the crack of morning, after the long dark night of the soul, when we’ve finally come to the end of ourselves, the risen LORD will meet us next to the empty tomb (so to speak) where we’ve been raise with Him … And He will bless us.

And, maybe, we’ll walk with a limp. This is because, between Jesus’ two comings, the most joyous, victorious, fruitful, powerful Christians are at the same time the most beautifully broken … and till Jesus comes, they limp.

God’s blessing replaces my striving when I come to Him in weakness and by faith. 

Have a blessed week in the LORD. Like Jacob, cease striving with God. Do limp, if you must, but come to Him by weakness and by faith. In Christ, there is salvation, blessing, and certain victory!



Pictures of Faith: Certain Worship—Genesis 22.1-19

Is there something God has given you that you’re in danger of valuing over God Himself?

Last week in Genesis 15 Abraham received the certainty of God’s blessing (land, descendants, blessing) by faith, in spite of his doubt and in spite of promised hardship and trouble. This led us to discuss the way those of us trusting in Christ have every blessing in Christ, even though we must be sustained by faith as we await the fulness of blessing at Christ’s return.

This week’s passage, in Genesis 22,  is about Isaac, sort of. Abraham has received the promised son from “his own body,” but will now be tested to see if He still trusts God now that he has received the promised son.

The passage is a paragon of excellence in ancient literature, but, this doesn’t mean it’s made up (like a parable). This story is also beautiful for its historicity and truth. All Jews trace their heritage back to Abraham, and we’re looking at the beginnings of God’s great story of redemption that culminates in the very “real” work of Jesus on the cross that makes God’s work in the blood, sweat and tears of my life “real” as well.

Abraham’s fear of the LORD is tested by God (:1-3). 

After these things God tested Abraham … take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and off him there as a burned offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you (ESV). Important here is that Abraham has already sent away Ishmael (21.14), the son of the flesh whom he had received after attempting to manipulate the blessing. And important to generations of Israelites reading this account is the place—Moriah. We find the Mountains of Moriah again in 2 Chronicles (the end of the Bible, to the Jewish mind) where King Solomon builds the Temple at the place where God had “appeared” to David (2 Chron 3.1) and where God would appear to and provide for His people.

So Abraham rose early in the morning …

Abraham’s demonstration of his fear of the LORD involved a willingness to surrender that which was dearest to him (:4-8). 

Abraham departs, and on the third day of the journey Abraham arrives at the place of worship and instructs his servants to remain while he and Isaac make the sacrifice. He knows two things at this point: God had promised him that the blessing would come through Isaac, and God had commanded him to sacrifice him. And yet, “we” [plural] will come again to you. Hebrews 11. 19a gives the clue we need here: He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead. Abraham really expected to kill his son, but he also expected God to raise to back to life!

Abraham’s demonstration of his fear of the LORD resulted in God’s provision (:9-14).

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the alter there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the alter, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham! And he said, “Here am I.” He said do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me (:9-12).

Notice what God now knows by experience, along with Abraham: Abraham truly fears God, and Abraham would not withhold his son from God. In other words, Abraham isn’t willing to exchange God Himself for that which he loves most!

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looks, and behold, behind him there was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnet offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided (:13-14).

In the end, God Himself provides the sacrifice necessary. That’s a picture of Jesus on the cross, isn’t it? But, there’s also significance in the wording. The word “provide” (verse 14, ESV) can mean either “to provide” or “to appear” or “be seen”. Second Chronicles 3.1 talks about how the LORD was “seen” by David at this very place of sacrifice. Verse 8 of our passage, in the mouth of Isaac, says the LORD will “provide” the sacrifice. It’s both, isn’t it? The God who provides sees the hearts of His worshippers and will be seen by them. So at Mount Moriah, the site of the Temple in late Old Testament history, the worshipper could bring his best offering to God. If he brought his first-born son (not for sacrifice, but for service!), he could know that God would provide for his needs, though he loses the economic services of his son. And there at the alter the worshipper would “see” the LORD.

But this true story foreshadowing God’s redemption goes deeper still, doesn’t it? There was a day when God the Father—like Abraham before—took His Son, whom He loved, and laid Him on the wood, and then raised His hand with the knife, so to speak. And on that day Jesus—like Isaac before—laid on the wood and resisted the desire to call down legions of angles who would have rescued Him in an instant. And, on that day there would be no angel to stand between the Father and the Son. And the “knife” fell … And on that day the Father and the Son passed the test that Abraham had foreshadowed millennia before. And because THEY passed the test, the blessing is as good as done, and we in Christ are the beneficiaries.

The willingness of both Father and Son to sacrifice what was dearest to them resulted in God’s provision for sinners, and the LORD appeared to us for salvation.

Abraham’s demonstration of his fear of the LORD resulted in blessing (:15-19). Then, God confirms His covenant with Abraham through the mysterious messenger. I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offering shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice (:17-18).

Millennia after the writing of Genesis, the Apostle Paul will understand this “offspring” to be a collective singular. Hear Galatians 3.16: Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 

The Old Testament worshipper would recognize that God had promised to preserve the blessing for the physical descendants of Abraham, the Jews. They will (future tense!) enjoy the blessing, when they say Barak h’ab Beshem Adonai (“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD” (Luke 13.35). But, we know that the blessing will come ultimately through ONE descendant. And it’s through Jesus (the ultimate seed) that those from all nations of the earth (Jew and Gentile) will be blessed.

So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived in Beersheba. 

Abraham’s demonstration of his fear of the LORD involved a willingness to surrender that which was dearest to him which resulted in God’s provision and confirmation of blessing.

And, about us …

And then what about us? Sometimes, God asks us to give up something he wants us to have, if we’re in danger of valuing the thing or the person more than God Himself. Then, if it’s in His plan, we may receive it back.

True worship requires fear of God. Fear of God requires desiring God for His own sake, not just desiring His blessings. Desiring God for His own sake requires offering up that which is dearest to us … Perhaps, we’ll receive it back, cleansed and set apart for God’s purpose in our lives.

Do you have a true story from your own live about something you’ve delivered to the LORD but then received back? As we think about our own hearts, we need need to read or hearts, along with Genesis 22, from the vantage-point of the work of Christ.

Our worship will involve a willingness to release that which is dearest to us, in exchange for which, we will know God’s provision and blessing in Christ.

Pictures of Faith: Certain Blessing—Genesis 15.1-21

I hate clutter! And part of these late-spring to early-summer evenings and weekends is doing something about it.

We ask two questions in our family fight with clutter: Are we using this? And, do we have a place for this thing?If the answer to both those questions is “No!” then the clutter in question has to go—to the dump, in our former urban life, or to our present junk pile (that reminds me each time I see it that I really need to get a truck …).

All this has something to do with Bible reading. In the great continent that is the Old Testament there are stories that need to be brought down from the attics of our lives and put to use right where we live. Hebrews 11, in the New Testament, references fourteen Old Testament characters worthy of note. Each of these great saints provide of a picture of faith before the coming of Christ. Each of these, from Abel to Barak to Jephthah to Samuel, shows us what it looked like to be saved by grace through faith in God’s promises before Christ came to complete the work of redemption. And many of these (Samson is included!) show us what saving faith looks like, despite failure and doubt.

Abraham and Certain Blessing—Genesis 15.1-21

For our purposes in these fleeting summer weeks at Woodland, we begin with Abraham. He began, very likely, as a star worshipper in around 2,000 BC in the Chaldean city of Ur, in present-day Iraq. In one of those great red- letter moments in Scripture, God called him and told him “Go …”. Go from your homeland and your family, and I will give you a land, descendants and a blessing, God said (Genesis 12). And, in one of the great events in human history, Abraham obeyed God.

But then Abraham began to doubt. He doubted because God took His time in fulfilling His promise. He doubted because his rascal nephew Lot came away with the good of the land where Abram dwelled. He doubted, because he and his wife, Sarai, were getting on a bit—too old to see the promise fulfilled by natural means.

And in the midst of doubt, the Genesis account takes us to Genesis 15. Read it, why don’t you?

Abraham’s faith looked like dependance on God for Certain Blessing, in spite of his doubt (15.1-11).

The passage begins with two exchanges between Abraham and God. The first deals with the promised descendant (:1-6). “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great,” God says, repeating the promise (:1, ESV). Abraham responds, “What will you give me, for I continue childless … “(:3-4).

God responds creatively and memorably: “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said, ‘So shall your offspring be'” (:5). And with that picture of Abram standing under night sky our Genesis narrator summarizes what has been true of Abraham since chapter 12: “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

The New Testament picks up these verses in Galatians 3.7 to show how dependance on God by faith (not anything we could contribute by our work) has always been the means to right relationship with God:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scriptures, foreseeing that God would justify Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’. So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 

But, Abraham still doubts. God has spoken to his question about the descendant, but what about the land? In the second exchange (:7-11), God reminds Abraham, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess” (:7). Abraham responds, “O LORD God, how am to know that shall possess it? (:8, emphasis mine).

Notice how Abraham has moved from questioning God to questioning himself. He is, after all, a man of faith in God, but if God asks him to DO something in order to receive the promise, Abraham isn’t sure he’s up to it.

So, God tells Abraham to lay out the articles of covenant making—heifer, goat, turtledove, pigeon. This would have been no surprise to Abraham. Whereas we go to the bank and sign papers to make covenants, Ancient Near Easterners would divide animals in two and then walk together through the pieces, looking to the mutilated animals and acknowledging what would happen to them if they didn’t keep the promise they were making.

Notice how the narrator gives detail: “Birds of prey came down on the carcasses …” (:11). Abraham is waiting for God to tell him to walk through the severed animals. He’s waiting for God to tell him what he must do to keep the covenant. And, God is taking His own time to turn up.

Abraham’s faith looked like dependance on God for Certain Blessing, in spite of hardship and trouble (15.12-21).

Can you see the picture now? If you’ve ever sat on a hillside on the Fourth of July waiting for the darkness and wondering when and if the fireworks will ever start, you just might have an ounce of the sensation Abraham felt.

And, God does turn up. But instead of telling Abraham what to do, God puts Abraham into a “deep sleep” (a word used to describe the deep concentration of a prophet). Then, God repeats the promise of the blessing, and explains how the Nation of Israel (the first readers of this account 600 years later) would receive the blessing after suffering hardship. And when God really appears it is as the localized form of Himself in His Shekineh glory in the form of billowing smoke and lighting. And, God passes through the pieces ALONE!

What has God just done? When we borrow money at a bank the loan officer will want to know how we intend to secure the loan, and the collateral for the money borrowed will need to be greater than the thing borrowed. If God is to make a deal (and it’s His word that’s on the line), what can He use as security that is greater than Himself? NOTHING! … Since God can appeal to nothing greater than Himself, He will secure His promise using Himself as collateral (see Hebrews 6.13-15). Now, if either party fails to keep its obligations, God will absorb the penalty for lawbreaking.

Where does this leave God? On the hook for sinners, right? Where does this leave Abraham? It leaves him blessed—not on the basis of his work, but on the basis of God’s work received by faith. Where does this leave the Nation of Israel, connecting the God they were following with Abraham’s God? It leaves them confident in their God of promise who will give them the land possessed by their enemies.

And, where does this leave us? 

Mark 15.33-34 describes what happened when the bank of God’s justice foreclosed on sinners:

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’? 

Galatians 3.13 further explains how this works in God’s plan of redemption:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. 

At the end of the day Abraham was made right with God by faith in the God of Promise. But even so, he didn’t trust or obey God perfectly. And, at the end of the day, the Nation of Israel didn’t obey God perfectly. And, at the end of the day, we haven’t obeyed God perfectly.

But Jesus obeyed God perfectly. And when we put our faith in Him we, like Abraham, are made right with God on the basis of His work on our behalf.

God’s certain blessing is mine by faith in Jesus, but it won’t be fully realized till I’m with Him.

In our time between Christ’s two comings, we’re a bit like Abraham waiting on the side of the hill. We want the full blessing we have coming to us in Christ, but we’re waiting on Christ’s return. Like Abraham, we’re saved by faith in God who took the burden of covenant bearing on Himself in Christ. Unlike Abraham, we don’t look to the night sky, but to the Cross of Christ.

So, when this summer I doubt God’s purpose in my life, I need to remember God will give me what I truly need. And when this summer I experience hardship and trouble, I need to long for Christ’s return. Abraham didn’t receive the full blessing right away, and we won’t either. But, God’s blessing is certain, and like Abraham, we can rest in the God of Promise.

When we bring this fantastic character study down from the attic to where we live, there’s some questions we can ask:

Where do we, like Abraham, doubt God’s purpose in our lives? How does this true account of the roots of our covenant faith help us think about these areas? 

Where am I, like Israel in receiving this promise, experiencing hardship and trouble? And, how does this account help me look forward to Christ’s return? 

How does this character study from the Old Testament change the way I think about God’s love and acceptance for me?