Thursday, August 16, 2012

Genesis 22-23; Isaac as an offering, Sarah dies

Well, the title of our post tonight pretty much sums up what happens in these chapters, but if you'd like a little more detail, we'll synopsize for you.

God decides to tempt Abraham.  He's like, "Hmmm....what's the thing that Abraham loves the most?  Ah!  His son!  I'll ask him to give me his son as a burnt offering to see if he's REALLY my guy!"  So God instructs Abraham on what to do and where to go.  Abraham and his men get to the mountain and he says, "Hey guys, why don't you just sit this one out.  I'm going to take Isaac here and we'll do this burnt offering father-son style."  So  they get up there and Isaac's like, "Um, Dad?  I see wood for fire...but where's the animal for an offering?"  And Abraham proceeds to tie up his son to this pile of wood, picks up a knife and finally, the angel of the Lord calls out and says, "Stop!  I was just messing with you!  Man, you're dedicated!"  And as a result of Abraham's God-fearing, God says yet again that he will multiply Abraham as the stars and make him a great nation.

Who among us today would be this faithful?  I would like to say or think that we all would, but a sacrifice like he was willing to make is a BIG one, and I bet that many/most of us wouldn't be so noble.  But it's something to chew on.  We see stories in the bible again and again of people who are willing to choose death over disobeying God--and they're always rewarded for doing so.  Just remember this the next time you are faced with a tough moral dilemma; so long as we choose God (even over the people we love the most!), God will take care of us (and ultimately the people we love the most).

Chapter 22 ends by outlining the family of Nahor, Abraham's brother (Haran was his other brother, Lot's father).  This is setting the stage for meeting Isaac's future wife, Rebekkah...yup, you guessed it, more inbreeding (evidently this was not frowned upon at the time).

In Chapter 23, Sarah dies.  She lived to be 127 years.  Abraham asks the sons of Heth (I'm not sure who Heth is) if he can bum some land for a burying place off of them.  They're like, "Yeah, take whatever you want."  So Abraham says, "I want that much do I owe you, Ephron?"  To which Ephron replies, "No, take it, it's yours.  You owe us nothing."  This goes back and forth a couple of times until finally Abraham says that he insists and they accept.  So now Sarah is buried in (as described in the book) "Machpelah before Mamre; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan."  So I'm not sure exactly what that Machpelah before Mamre just another way of saying Hebron in Canaan?

Anyway, big stories.  Lots of information.  If you haven't read the book, do it.  It's never too late to start!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Genesis 20-21: She's my, wife...

Chapter 20: We've seen this before, but in Egypt. Abraham tells the people in a new place that Sarah is is sister and the ruler takes her...and then finds out it was really his wife and now he is in trouble with God. This time, Abraham and Sarah are traveling and end up in Gerar. Again, Abraham tells them that Sarah is his sister and Sarah says that Abraham is her brother. An unclear amount of time passes and then God comes to Abimelech  (the local ruler who took Sarah) in a dream and tells him that he has taken Abraham's wife. Abimelech replies with a "Woah, she said she was his sister and I haven't touched was I supposed to know?" God says, "OK, I'll let you off the hook this time because you haven't touched her, but give her back to Abraham."  So, Abimelech pays off Abraham in a very similar fashion as the Pharaoh (animals, silver, servants, etc.) and God lifts the curse he placed on Abimelech's women (he shut their wombs).

Abimilech asks why Abraham lied to him and he responds that it was neither a lie nor truth. He is actually a half brother to Sarah, so she is both his wife and sister. Therefore it was not a lie. Abraham continues that he did not want someone to kill him for his wife.

Now this all seems a little strange to me, and it seems that Abraham and Sarah have a pretty good con going on. Go into a new town, have say Sarah is his sister, have her get taken, have God get mad and curse the people, get Sarah back, and finally get lots of stuff as a pay off for the misunderstanding. Whatever the case, Abimelech then tells Abraham and Sarah to pick a place in his lands and take it.

Chapter 21: Sarah has Isaac as promised. He is circumcised, grows, and is weaned. Abraham throws a feast for Isaac and Hagar's (remember, she had Abraham's kid earlier?) son started mocking Issac. Sarah is torqued off by this and tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael packing so that Issac will be the sole heir. Woefully, Abraham sends the two off into the wilderness with just a loaf of bread and a jug of water. God tells him not to worry as Ishmael will be a father of his own nation as well.

Naturally, things do not go well for Hagar with a son and only some bread and water in the wilderness. When the water is gone, she gives up on life, and throws her son under some shrubs to cry and die where she doesn't have to see it. She prays to God and then is answered by finding a well with which to give him water. This is all very confusing, because as best we can tell from prior evidence, Ishmael would have been in his mid-late teens at this point. Was he really that old when Hagar left him under a shrub? Or are the stories somewhat out of order? Anyway, the well was in a place called Beersheba...although it may not have been called that when this story actually takes place because we would hear about the well at Beersheba being named later in the chapter.

Back to Abraham...Now Abimelech comes up to Abraham and basically tells him, "I know you are a man of God, I know you will be of great power, so let's make a deal....I've always been good to you, so you should promise that you will never turn on me or my sons or my son's sons." Abraham proceeds to say that he hasn't always been good to him as his men had taken a well away from Abraham. Abimelech denies knowing anything about it and claims innocence of the incident. So Abraham gets 7 ewes and tells Abimelech that they will be witness to the fact that the well in question was in fact dug by Abraham and that it is his well. Abimelech says OK and all is fine and dandy. They name the place Beersheba (is this the same well that Hagar was saved at?), Abraham plants a grove of trees and decides to go traveling with his family some more....hopefully not to tell more people she is his sister (which will be kind of hard now that they have a kid together).

...more to come....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Genesis 15-19; Wowza!

Chapters 15-19 cover a whole lot of story!

Chapter 15:
God reminds Abram that he will become the father of a great nation.  Abram has a nightmare that God explains to mean that Abram's seed will spend 400 years serving a foreign land.  His land would be "from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates."

Chapter 16:
Sarai is barren and is a little concerned that she will not be able to give Abram this so-called "seed" about whom God keeps reminding him.  Sooooo....she sends Abram over to her maid, Hagar, so that she would conceive and have a child for Abram.  But when Hagar gets pregnant, she comes to despise Sarai for this and flees into the wilderness.  An angel comes to Hagar and told her she should go back to Sarai, bare a son and call him Ishmael, and he'll be a wild dude (sounds like a bit of a rogue, maybe).

Chapter 17:
This is the covenant (promise/agreement) between God and Abram.  God changes his name to Abraham.  God says he will make Abraham a great nation and he will be given the land of Canaan (remember Canann?  Ham's son...cursed to serve the families of Shem and Japheth?  Abraham came out of Shem's lineage.)  God asks Abraham to circumcise all of the men among him, family and servants alike, as a token of this covenant.  Any man who is uncircumcised will be cut off from his people, as he will have broken God's covenant.  Sarai's name is now changed to Sarah.  And God says he will bless her with a son and she will be the mother of a great nation.  This son's name will be Isaac.  God also says that he will make Ishmael fruitful--twelve princes shall he beget--and make him a great nation.  Then Abraham goes and circumcises all of the men of his house that very day.

Chapter 18:
Now three "men" show up at Abraham's tent door one day.  It would seem that these "men" are two angels and God (or three angels and God was also there?).  Abraham has Sarah prepare a big meal for them.  As she's preparing it, she hears them telling Abraham that she will bare him a son.  She laughs at this and God's like, "Why is Sarah laughing?  Am I not God?  Can I not do anything?"  Sarah denied that she laughed, but God said, "Naw...pretty sure you laughed!"

Then the men/angels looked out toward Sodom (where Lot is currently residing with his families).  God says, "Sodom and Gommorah are pure evil.  I'm going to destroy them."  Abraham feels a little uneasy about this because Lot is there.  He says, "Are you going to destroy the righteous with the wicked?"  Then Abraham proceeds to pester God in groups of 10..."if there are 50 righteous men, will you destroy it?" "No. Not for 50."  "If there are 40 righteous men will you destroy it?"  "No.  Not for 40."  And so on down the line all the way to 10.  God says he will not destroy Sodom if there are 10 good men there.

Chapter 19:
The two angels that had visited Abraham went to go fetch Lot.  Lot tells them to spend the night at his place for safety's sake.  The say that they'll just spend the night in the street, but Lot insists that they stay with him, so they come into his home.  Before they go to bed, the men of Sodom start calling for Lot, "Where are the men that came to visit you?  Send them out that we may "know" them."  I suppose I can't be certain what this actually means, but typically in the bible when someone wants to "know" someone else, it is implying a sexual relationship.  So Lot goes out to the men and says, "I have a couple of virgin daughters you can have for your purpose (?!), but please leave these men (angels) alone."  The men get upset that this foreigner is judging them, so now they go after Lot.  The angels grab Lot and pull him inside and "smite" the men outside with blindness so that they cannot find the door.

The angels tell Lot that he'd better take his family and leave and not look back.  Lot warns his sons-in-laws and married daughters, but is only ignored.  So he leaves with his two virgin daughters and his wife, but uh-oh!  His wife looks back right as God is sending down fire and brimstone upon the cities!  The angels said not to look back!  Now she turns into a pillar of salt.  So Lot and his two daughters are safe and in hiding out in the mountains in a cave.  His daughters commune; they are concerned that their father is old and there are no men around to...uh, "know" them.  They then devise a plan to get Lot pass-out drunk, sleep with him!!!!, and bare children so that he might have a seed.  Aaaand that's exactly what they do.  Their children will become the Moabites and then Ammonites (we've read about these peoples before).

Really.  Why people insist on not reading the bible is beside me!  These stories are chock full of more television drama material that even the best writers in Hollywood could come up with!  Albeit, it's a little unsettling, and as you're reading it you may just do a double take or let out a "WHAT?!"  But really, interesting stuff.

More next week.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Genesis 13-14: Lot leaves, gets saved

Abram, after departing Egypt, goes back to where the altar had been set up.  At this point, he is very wealthy.  As is his nephew Lot...  Therefore, they weren't able to peacefully co-exist in the same land because there weren't enough resources for them and their people to sustain themselves.  A feud occurs between the herdsmen of the two men and then Abram says, "We can't both stay here.  You go your way, I'll go the other way."  So Lot decides that the land by the river Jordan was pretty fertile looking and moves that way...which happens to be in Sodom (a place of exceedingly sinful men).  It is now that God tells Abram to look around and see all that surrounds him, for it shall all be his.  Then Abram builds another altar in Hebron.

Now, while this is happening a war is breaking out between an alliance of 4 area kings and an alliance of 5 area kings (the king of Sodom was among these). Why does this matter? because Lot is in Sodom and Sodom is overrun...therefore Lot is taken. Abram is notably upset by this and gathers his men to go and save Lot. They run down Lot's captors and smite them by nightfall, getting back Lot and all of his goods (and his women, by the way). Upon returning Lot, the king of Sodom rushes out to meet Abram, thanking him for helping his kingdom. He offers to give Abram all of the goods he has gotten back for the kingdom of Sodom, but Abram will have none of it. Clearly, Abram does not want to be considered a champion of Sodom's cause. Helping Sodom was only a by-product of helping Lot.

More to come....the destruction of Sodom was foreshadowed in chapter 13 10: "...the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered, before the Lord destroyed  Sodom and Gomorrah..." Sodom and Gomorrah hasn't been smitten yet, but we are told about it so I'm guessing it will be happening pretty soon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Genesis 11-12: Post flood world and the appearance of Abram

Brief synopsis tonight as the story is pretty straightforward setting up back story for what is to come:

Chapter 11:

We are told of a post flood world where all of the people speak one language. The people realize that with their one language, all can communicate to build and do great things. What do they decide to do with this revelation? Build a tower to reach to God. God sees that man will be capable of anything he puts his mind to and then decides to mix their languages and scatter them about, presumably in an attempt to keep them from trying to be like God. The place was therefore named Babel as it was where the people's languages were mixed up. This story has modern connotations all over it. With our never ending and always improving technology, society is not only beginning to try to reach past God, but is also trying to get through life without God through very unnatural means. Perhaps this story can serve as a warning. as we work toward a global society, capable of achieving anything, where everything is electronic in one wireless "cloud," aren't we just a major crash away from once again becoming babbling idiots?

I digress....the rest of this chapter is a lot of begetting ultimately leading us to Abram. *noteworthy point: people are living shorter and shorter lifespans through these generations*

Now Abram had two brothers. One brother, Haran died, leaving his son Lot without a father. After Haran's death in the city of Ur, Tehrah (Abram's father) took Abram, Lot and Abram's barren wife Sarai and left Ur to move to Caanan. On the way to Caanan, they stopped in the city of Haran where Terah died.

Chapter 12:

God tells Abram to leave and to go to a land God would show him and make him the start of a great nation. Abram says OK and takes Sarai, Lot, all of their stuff and all of the "souls" they gathered and went into Canaan. Abram went through Canaan and continued on until God said STOP!....This is the place. Abram pitched a tent and then built an altar unto the Lord. Then Abram started going further South and a famine started. Abram took his crew and decided to go to Egypt...which is when things get quite interesting.

Abram tells Sarai, "you are quite hot, and they will kill me to take you if they know you are my wife....let's just say you are my sister." This works and all of the Pharaoh's princes hoot and holler at the hotness of Sarai and take her to Pharaoh. Pharaoh decides that he like's her and takes her into his house and gives Abram lots of animals and servants in return....until bad things start happening to Pharaoh and he realizes it is punishment for taking another man's wife. he gets mad at Abram for lying to him and then kicks his butt to the curb.

More to come....

Saturday, August 4, 2012

SFT: Complaints

A big part of our purpose in this blog is to improve ourselves.  We like to work to improve our minds, bodies, and spirits and then share our trials and tribulations with you all.  We try to be uplifting and inspiring.  We often hear back that our comments are helpful to people.  But today, I want to ask you all for help.  Today, I need to complain.  Today, the SFT turns into the WTF.

I want to ask you all a question today.  What do you HATE?  What is it that makes you complain no matter how often you're exposed to it, no matter how much you've accepted it as a part of your life?  What is the one thing you deal with in your life that you would trade for something even slightly better in a heart beat?  Think about it...I bet you've got one or two things on your mind!

I have a couple things that drive me nuts, but the one thing that makes me a Crabby Christine above all else is...THE HUMIDITY!!!!  Summers in Wisconsin can get pretty hot and humid at times, but this year seems to be one of the worst I can recall experiencing.  We live near the lakeshore (Lake Michigan, that is) and it's typically pretty cool here in the summer.  As a kid, I can remember driving "to town" and as we'd cross the city and drive toward the lake, you could stick your arm out the window and feel the temperature dropping, 5, 10, 15, 20 degrees.  The first year we moved back to the area, I wore jeans all but maybe a week of the entire summer--seriously!  But this year...YUCK!  We have a little window AC unit that does little to nothing to keep us cool.  Okay, so it helps take the edge off, but when all is said and done, even with the AC on, it's still 82 degrees in here and I stick to the couch.  We also have only one car, which typically goes with my husband to work unless I need it for the day, thus getaways to the AC'd Wal-Mart for the kids and me are scarce.  To make matters worse, I'm nursing our 7-month-old, so I've got a little space-heater strapped to me all day long.

The heat, coupled with the humidity, just makes my mood sour.  I don't feel like eating, I don't feel like cleaning, and I don't feel like taking care of our three kids (who are also crabby because of the weather).  Even when it's a little cooler outside, if it's humid, I'm just not myself.  By the way, as I type this, my two-year-old is crying and yelling at me for NO APPARENT REASON.

I love winter.  I love fall.  Especially fall.  Fall is just so refreshing.  It's crisp and dry outside, the sun is often shining, the leaves are gorgeous, the bored children go back to school, everyone gets pumped up for football and the like, you can wear pretty much whatever you'd like because the weather allows for so much versatility...but hot, humid summers?  Pass.

So what drives you bananas?  And further more, how do you deal with it?  Are there things that make it easier to cope?  Do you imagine you're somewhere else?  Do you physically remove yourself from the situation?  Help!  Please!  Right now my best defense has been to be "lazy" (i.e. conserve energy) and to pray.  I pray for sanity a lot.  The one good thing to come out of this summer?  I have REALLY been keeping on top of our photo albums and our Shutterfly account :)

This has been this Sunday's WTF.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Genesis: 6-10 Noah

Well, we all know the story of Noah.  People on the earth were being violent and corrupt.  God says, "Something will have to be done."  Noah's a righteous guy.  God asks Noah to build an ark out of gopherwood.  Noah brings his wife, sons and sons' wives unto the ark.  Noah brings "sevens" of the clean animals onto the ark and "twos" of the unclean animals onto the ark.  The earth gets rained upon for 40 days and 40 nights.  The waters stay for 150 days.  They hang out in the ark for a few more months until the tops of the mountains can be seen.  Noah sends out a dove and the dove comes back.  Noah sends out a dove and the dove brings back on olive branch.  Noah sends out a dove and the dove doesn't return.  The waters recede.  God sends a rainbow and promises never to destroy the earth again.  Woot.

Chapter 9 shares a little more information about the Noah story.

First, we learn that this is the point when man is told it is okay to eat meat.  Up until then, they were likely all munching on leaves and fruit and seeds.  But now God says, "Every living thing that moveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.  But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof , shall ye not eat."  (So, they're not supposed to eat live animals, I gather?  Possibly not uncooked?)

Then we learn that Noah began to farm and planted a vineyard.  Noah gets drunk from his own wine and evidently gets naked and passes out.  His son, Ham (who is dubbed "the father of Canaan"), sees his father laying there in the nude and tells his brothers, Shem and Japheth.  Now at this point in time, it must have been hugely embarrassing to be seen naked (remember Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit?) because Shem and Japheth "took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness."  Then Noah wakes up and "knew what his younger son had done unto him."  Then Noah says that because of this, Canaan shall be a servant to Shem and Japheth.  We're not really clear as to why Canaan is being punished for something that Ham saw...are we missing something here?

And in Chapter 10 we get a catalog of the generations of the sons of Noah...a little boring, but it does have an occasional tidbit the eludes to what we will be reading about in the future.  Read it for yourself to see what we mean.  The one thing we didn't understand, though, was any part that made mention of Shem's, Ham's, or Japheth's families, it states "every one after his tongue" or "after their tongues."  That makes it seem as though they were speaking different languages.  Is this just vague, referencing the future generations, post-Babel (that is the next chapter, after all)?  Or were there different languages prior to this, too?

More next week!