Not Everyone is an Abraham

After dealing with the death of Abraham and a short view of the descendants of Ishmael, one would expect that we would then turn to the life of Isaac and begin to follow his life. While Genesis 25:19-26 starts by saying “This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac,” it becomes clear rather quickly that the focus will not be on Isaac, but rather on his family line. Isaac’s sons, particularly Jacob, becomes the focus of the story.

Recently this has intrigued me. Isaac was the promised one. So much of Abraham’s story was spent in great tension. Would the promised son be born to Abraham and Sarah? Yes, he would be. Yet, the promised son has very little story of his own. His life seems rather overshadowed by his father’s life and the life of his sons. Even the chosen son of the promise does not seem to have the same kind of significant narrative of Abraham.

What we are told here is that like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah are facing barrenness as well. However, unlike the case with Abraham and Sarah, the barrenness is resolved simply by Isaac praying to God and with God answering the prayer. It is all put so simply. God is still relied on for life, but everything is resolved in a much neater fashion than with Abraham.

After this though the story moves away from Isaac and begins to focus on the twins that are now wrestling around within Rebekah. Already Isaac is moved from the center. It is even Rebekah who inquires of the Lord here. The rest of the chapter then focuses on the sons of Isaac, which I’ll look into more next week. While Isaac does take center stage again in the next chapter, it is really the only story that is really his.

It just seems so anticlimactic to me. We have all this anticipation for Isaac, but hear very little of his life directly. While still a bearer of the promise of God, he is not a trailblazer like Abraham, and doesn’t run into a life of conflict like either Jacob or Joseph after him. His life appears successful as we’ll see in Genesis 36, but rather subdued in comparison.

This strikes me so much, because I’ve heard so many people who want to be like Abraham, Moses, or some other major Biblical figure. Not only do they want to be them, some also think that everyone should be. While I think there is truth to that, as we are all called to be like Christ, the focus often seems a bit different.

Maybe I’m completely off here, but when I hear talk about being like Christ it seems more focused on our character and our ability to love others. When I hear people talk about being like Abraham or Moses, it seems that the focus is on accomplishment. Not to say that Abraham, Moses, or other significant figures didn’t have character, but what we focus on is the accomplishment. We invoke Moses because we want authority over a group of people like Moses did, often forgetting how much of a struggle it was for Moses). We invoke Abraham because we feel like we are setting sail in uncharted waters and want God’s promise to guide us, again ignoring that Abraham had doubts and wrestled with the implications of what God presented.

There can be times where we feel that our lives have some commonality with these figures, and that is okay. The thing is not everyone is going to be an Abraham, a Moses, or a Paul. I’m also pretty sure that’s okay too. Are lives that are somewhat uneventful somehow less appealing to God? I don’t think that’s the case. Isaac seems to live a rather uneventful life in comparison to some of the other figures in Genesis, yet Isaac appears to trust in God and God appears to bless him.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, we might be pressured into feeling like we need to live up to some expectation placed on us to be just like someone else. I guess I don’t feel like that’s the case. In fact I’ve grown suspicious of people who try to compare themselves too closely to figures from the Bible. It seems like a power play to connect yourself to a authority figure. That’s not to say that we won’t see reflections of these stories play out in our own lives, but that we shouldn’t be trying to convince others we’re just like them.

We’re allowed to be who we are. That’s not to say we don’t have sin or flaws that need taken care of. It’s also not an excuse to just do whatever we please. It is just that we will be placed in unique positions and have unique strengths and weaknesses. We don’t have to be like Moses, Abraham, or whoever else in those circumstances, it is about being ourselves faithfully following after Jesus.

This may lead us to do amazing things that will be remembered for years to come, or it could lead us to a quieter, but faithful life that isn’t remembered except by those closest to us. Both are valid expressions of the faith we have.

The Death of Abraham

The final transition of the Abraham story is understandably the death of Abraham. Genesis 25:1-18 presents us with Abraham’s death and begins to prepare us for moving on the Isaac. While this is a fairly significant event, it may be hard to view this with much interest.

After all, the account of Abraham’s death isn’t very long. Most of the account isn’t even directly about his death, but rather about what he did after the death of Sarah. Abraham remarried and had a bunch of other kids. In case anyone worries about the status of Isaac though, the story shows that Abraham left Isaac everything and gave gifts to each of his other sons and sent them away.

After all that we’re told Abraham’s age, and that he lived to a good old age (as if we needed that affirmation) and that he died. We’re then told rather briefly that both Ishmael and Isaac bury Abraham beside Sarah in the land that he bought a couple chapters ago. The direct account of Abraham’s death ends with God blessing Isaac, as if to complete the transition that we know is coming.

From there we move to the genealogy of Ishmael, which if you think too much about it is a strange thing. Ishmael is not the son of promise, and yet he we are shown his descendants. One wonders why such an account was included. It largely seems rather matter of fact, except for the closing verse that describes the descendents of Ishmael as hostile towards all the tribes near them. It is a bit surprising to see the account here since Ishmael was sent away.

It’s hard to draw too much out of these rather short accounts. The only thing that I can really think of is that life goes on without us, no matter how important we may be. Abraham was and still is viewed as the father of the faith. He is a man who displayed great faith in God, even while he still had the messy human tendencies of doubt. Even though Abraham was no doubt an important figure, he died, life went on and the following generations took up this journey of following God.

That thought isn’t necessarily a comfortable one, but it makes it no less true. My life no matter how important will come to an end and the following generations will continue life. The cycle will continue. Our impact may be written of in history books or only extend a few generations after us, but life will still go on.

This is true with Abraham. He lived a life in relationship with God. We see him act with great faith in some places, and in doubt and worry in others. Yet he still died. We then turn to his son Ishmael, and the time of his death is also recorded in this chapter. The story then turns to Isaac and will follow him and his sons through the next portion of the story. That’s where we’ll pick up next week.

Is God Really Involved in the Day to Day?

Last week I mentioned that we are in the transitional part of Abraham’s story. The tension of Isaac’s birth has been resolved and the transition began with the death of Sarah. We now move to the second transition, which is the finding of a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24.

As I’ve thought about this passage, I’ve found that it strikes me as a bit odd. Here we are looking at a rather lengthy account of Isaac getting a wife. While on one level this seems expected and natural. At the same time it seems so common.

I think that part of the reason it seems so odd is because we don’t have a lot of expectation for God to show up or be involved much in the everyday. God may show up on Sunday morning for worship, a missions trip, during our efforts for social justice, but it’s easier to doubt that God has anything to do with the things we don’t label as spiritual.

Even Abraham’s story has an odd element to it in this regard. God is directly connected to something as simple as the birth of a child. Sure it was done in a rather miraculous way, but even Abraham and Sarah showed they could find ways to produce a child, as they did through Hagar.

Looking at the story of Abraham’s servant finding Isaac a wife, we see a story that sees God close even in the rather mundane details of life. Even though God doesn’t appear to take quite as active a hand in this story, as with the birth of Isaac, there is a sense that God permeates the air of the story. Walter Brueggemann in his commentary on Genesis says that this story is “…a presentation of how it is to live in an ethos in which life is accepted and perceived as a gift from God.”

I think Brueggemann is onto something with that description. We see this reliance on God throughout the story. Abraham starts it off by having his servant swear an oath in the name of the Lord. Abraham also doesn’t want Isaac to go back to the land of his father because of the promise that God had relayed to Abraham. The servant also prayed to God when he reached his destination, and expected that prayer to be answered. The servant also praises God when he finds that Rebekah comes as a seeming answer to his prayer. We continue to see this reference to God as the servant tells his tale and in the reactions of Laban and Bethuel. The point as probably been hammered enough, right?

Even though God is not directly active, the story presents God as being involved in the finding of a wife for Isaac. I suppose a push back to this is that God is simply being involved in the promise coming to pass. For Isaac to have descendants he needs a wife. At the same time the promise did not hinge on just the right woman being found. So it seems strange to pass this off as just God involved in his promise.

The question that arises out of this story that sees God in every action, is does God really work this way? Is God involved in our daily lives to such a point? It’s a tricky question. On one level yes may seem to be the obvious answer, but I wonder how many of us would struggle to give examples of this in our own lives. I also wonder how many people who would be able to say that they’ve been looking and longing for that, but God just doesn’t seem to be there.

Sometimes we miss God’s activity, because we just aren’t really looking for it. We just write everything off as perfectly natural or coincidence and think nothing of it. Other times we are looking for God. We are searching desperately for God to be found in the midst of our daily lives, but God seems to be missing. I wish I had a simple answer to gift wrap, but I don’t.

I do believe in a God who is active and surrounds our daily lives. I believe he can be found in interactions with family, friends, and complete strangers. I also believe that sometimes he seems very distant. Sometimes we realize that this distance wasn’t real, and in hindsight we can see how God was with us even when it seemed like he wasn’t. Other times we don’t know, and may never know what God was doing during certain periods of our lives.

Maybe part of the problem in all this is that we expect God will work certain ways in our lives. We expect every story will be in the vein of how God was involved in finding my spouse. However, we don’t seem to hold that same expectation in the stories of burying a spouse (my thought goes back to last chapter with the death of Sarah). We seem to be more comfortable with God’s activity in the good times and the difficult times. This is no criticism of that fact, just that is the reality I have experience personally.

Even so, I think that this story encourages us to trust that God works in our daily lives. To live in such a way to be expecting God to work. This doesn’t mean we’ll see or hear God directly intervening in our lives, like this story doesn’t show God directly involved (at least compared to the earlier parts of the Abraham story). It simply means that God is active in the world. In the common everyday aspects of life we have the chance to see God at work. I all too often miss those chances I think, I hope to have eyes that are able to see them more often.

Obedience to God is Not the Greatest Good

It is so easy to sort through the Christian faith and only find morality isn’t it? We focus on things like the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and other parts of the Bible and make lists and lists of rules. Some of which are directly connected to the Bible and others that are of a more supplemental nature.

I remember being a young Christian trying to sort through all of the rules. I had run into many rules that some Christians called being obedient to God, that I didn’t understand the foundation of. Where did God forbid dancing, alcohol, gambling, and Harry Potter? While I understood some of the reasons behind such ideas, it was one thing to give a reasoned account of why something could be dangerous and another to say that God absolutely forbids it and would be angry with us for doing it. In this kind of framework obedience to God is the most important thing.

I’ve been thinking about the idea that obedience to God is the greatest hallmark of our faith, and I’m not sure I believe it. This thought process started mainly because of the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. A lot of people praise Abraham for obeying God, even for such a difficult request. At times though this looks to others like blind obedience that isn’t nearly as appealing. In fact, some people who praise Abraham are also looking for blind obedience to the words they speak, because they claim they are also directly from God.

While I would not want to jettison obedience from the Christian faith, I wonder if the emphasis should be placed somewhere else. Did Abraham obey out of blind submission to God or was there something more going on here? I would say that ultimately Abraham’s ability to obey was more connected to his knowledge of God and a trust, faith, respect, and even love for God. It is this trust, respect, and love for God that is our ultimate calling in my opinion.

Obedience to someone doesn’t mean that we trust them, respect them, or love them. We can obey bosses that we don’t respect, because we want to keep our job. Sometimes we obeyed our parents not out of love or respect, but because we wanted them to leave us alone. For those who now have kids I’m sure that we can see times when our own kids do the same.

It is not hard to obey God out of that same motivation. We can easily come to view God as the one servant in the parable of the talents did in Matthew 25:14-30. God becomes “a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,” and causes us to “become afraid” and we do little so we don’t get him angry.

Being obedient can also be used to get our way on things. This reminded me of Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God where he talks about obedience as a way to have God owe us. “You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws. If you do that, then you have ‘rights.’ God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die. You don’t need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior. ”

Again here we have an obedience that isn’t out of a trust, respect, or love for God. In this case it isn’t out of a fear of God, but rather trying to earn good things through our obedience. We obey out of a desire to get a reward and think that more obedience will equal more rewards.

It is this train of thought that leads me to conclude that obedience is not the end we are seeking to achieve as Christians. Obedience will be part of the Christian life, but if it becomes the end it can be done to avoid punishment or get reward. This kind of obedience can be disconnected from trust, respect, or love. As Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus views love of God as the great and first commandment, not obedience. Again, I do think that the love of God will lead us to concrete ways of expressing that love. This will probably even look a lot like obedience. However, obedience is not the final destination. The destination is love of God. It is being able to love, trust, and respect God. This is greater than both our obedience and our sins.

God Tells Abraham to Do What?

Some time later God tested Abraham.” This is how the most difficult story in the life of Abraham begins, the call of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22. This story is one that fascinates us and infuriates us. Some are drawn to the picture of a faithful God pictured here, while others are turned off by the mere idea that God would ask for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is a difficult and divisive text to be sure. This will not stop me from moving forward in giving my thoughts, but that I am doing so in humility. I could be wrong and disagreement is more than welcome as long as it is civil.

It is hard to know where to start with this passage, so let us start at the beginning. God tests Abraham by telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. It is at this point that we think we must be reading something wrong. God is calling on Abraham to sacrifice his son? This is messed up.

I agree with the sentiment. It does seem messed up, but in the day of Abraham that kind of sacrifice was not unheard of. I think that this is one barrier we have to understanding this text. We look on the idea of human sacrifice, and particularly child sacrifice, as evil. I believe we are right in doing so, but such a line was not so clear in the days of Abraham.

We have both the gift and curse of hindsight to help us today. However, who knows what practices we do today that will be looked at with disdain thousands of years from now. It should also be noted that we don’t quite know how old Isaac was at this point. He was old enough to carry a significant amount of firewood. This doesn’t change the repulsiveness of human sacrifice, but it may change our image of a helpless little child also.

Some even suggest that this story is evidence of God providing a different way. That God here is rejecting human sacrifice. Walter Brueggemann, disagrees saying, “It is of no value to find in this story an exchange of animal sacrifice for human sacrifice, as it addresses much more difficult issues.” Honestly, I think Brueggemann dismisses the idea a little too quickly. Can this passage not have that message even if it is not the primary message? It is laid clear in Leviticus and Deuteronomy later that child sacrifice is not acceptable, so this passage could serve as an example of God’s rejection of that practice.

With that said, I do agree with Brueggemann that this passage is dealing with much more difficult issues. This leads to the next reason why God’s instructions to Abraham are so messed up. Not only is the idea of human sacrifice evil, but isn’t this the very son that God provided to Abraham in the first place? Even if human sacrifice was accepted in this age, you’d have thought that Abraham would have brought this to God’s attention.

In fact, some consider the silence of Abraham here as an indicator that Abraham, at least partially, failed God’s test. To be honest, I’m of mixed opinion on this. I can certainly see why some would come to that conclusion. A few chapters ago we saw Abraham confronting God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Why would he not plead for his own son? Abraham has not had any problem bringing up doubts or difficulties trusting God in the past, why is it different here?

However, I could also see it as Abraham learning to trust God. Abraham had doubted God in the arrival of an heir, but God proved faithful. It certainly seems that Abraham is trusting again in the faithfulness of God. After all when Isaac brings up the fact that there is no animal for the offering, Abraham simply says, “God will provide the lamb for the offering, my son.”

Of course we don’t completely know what was going on in Abraham’s mind. The thoughts of Abraham here are strangely blocked off from us. All we have is that one statement. Usually we have at least some glimpse into Abraham’s doubts or fears, but here we have little insight.

We can easily imagine what is going through Abraham’s mind though. God, the same God who enabled Abraham and Sarah to have a son, is now calling for the sacrifice of that son. Not only is it hard as a parent, the very notion of sacrificing our sons or daughters is heartbreaking. With Abraham this takes on an even more confusing element. Didn’t God promise to make my descendants into a great nation through Isaac? How can that happen if he is sacrificed? It appears that Abraham’s answer was bound up in faith that God would provide a way.

Brueggemann says that the challenge of this passage is in how we view God. God is both the tester and the provider in this chapter. In many ways I would say that is the case of God throughout the whole of the Abraham story. God’s promises to Abraham could be considered a test, will Abraham have faith in God and God’s promise?

God’s promise goes against what seems naturally possible though. Sarah is barren, how can new life come from that? Abraham does have faith even so, but also struggles in keeping that faith, particularly as the years continues to pass without an heir. Yet in that framework, God also is the provider. God takes the barren womb of Sarah, and makes life out of death. Not only is Sarah barren in the first place, but also significantly older than child bearing age. Yet, God still manages to produce life.

So it is no wonder that Bruggemann writes of Abraham’s faith like so, “Abraham knows beyond understanding that God will find a way to bring life even in this scenario of death. That is the faith of Abraham.” This is the faith we’re challenged to embrace. Do we believe in a God who can bring life out of death? Do we believe in a God who will test us and yet also provide for us?

If these are the questions we’re left with, it would mean that perhaps Abraham wasn’t the focus in this chapter. As Brueggemann in his final comments on this chapter says, “In the end, our narrative is perhaps not about Abraham being found faithful. It is about God being found faithful.”

I’m not sure all of this makes it easier. While I don’t think this story is something that we are ever going to be called to do, we are still dealing with the same God. A God who wants to see if we’ll trust Him even in the midst of testing and a God that provides even when the testing is of his own device and our faith in him falters.

God’s Faithfulness And Our Doubt Are Not Surprising

As we’ve been going through the Abraham story the promise of an heir for Abraham has been hanging over much of it. It has been the source of doubt for Abraham and Sarah. It has also caused them to develop their own plans for procuring a son. Yet here in Genesis 21:1-21 we finally have the birth of the promised son, Isaac.

For as much as the birth of Isaac has been anticipated, there is very little time spent on Isaac’s arrival. Just within this chapter there is more time spent on what happens regarding Ishmael than there is on Isaac’s arrival. Doesn’t that seem a bit backwards? It does at first, but I wonder if it is really all that backwards.

If you think about the fact that so much of the dialogue regarding the birth of Isaac has primarily been within two circumstances. The first is the announcement of a a promised son in the first place. This is the establishment of the promise of God and makes sense that this would be a place of discussion. The second circumstance seems to be in the context of doubts or struggles that Abraham is having. God shows up to reaffirm the promise and attempt to alleviate the doubts of Abraham.

At the birth of Isaac there is neither of these circumstances in play. We have been told of the promise already and there is no presence of doubt now that Isaac is actually here as God has promised. John H. Sailhamer puts it this way, “The plan not only came about, but more importantly, it happened as it was announced. Thus the narrative calls attention to God’s faithfulness to his word and to his careful attention to the details of his plan.” While I may disagree that God revealed his entire hand from the start regarding the details, the message that God’s promise was fulfilled is certainly true and may explain why this is such a short event.

Walter Brueggemann takes a similar track, as he focuses the importance of this passage on the connection between the word of God and the birth of Isaac. He goes on to say, “Indeed, the whole story depends on that coupling. It insists that one cannot separate the eternal purpose of God and the concrete biological reality.” Again the emphasis seems to be the faithfulness of God, but Brueggemann acknowledges that this was not just a spiritual achievement, but one that take form through the natural process of child birth.

So if the fact that Isaac has come just as God had promised is the reason for a short, but meaningful announcement of his birth, why then does Ishmael get a longer treatment? I think that this is because unlike Isaac, who is unmistakably the promised one, the problem is what to do with Ishmael. We should not be surprised by the arrival and future of Isaac at this point, but the fate of Ishmael is more uncertain.

Ishmael is introduced as mocking Isaac during the feast to celebrate Isaac’s weaning. Sarah is the one who spotted this and tells Abraham to send him and his mother packing. Abraham is uncertain of what to do. Abraham does not have the negative view of Ishmael that Sarah seems to hold. In fact God doesn’t seem to hold this negative view of Ishmael either. While God tells Abraham to do as Sarah wants, God also let’s Abraham know that Ishmael will be taken care of. He will become a great nation also even though he is not the son of promise.

Brueggeman puts it this way, “God cares for this outsider whom the tradition wants to abandon. There is no stigma attached to this “other” son. All are agreed on the preciousness of Ishmael–Yahweh, angel, Hagar, Abraham–all but Sarah.” We see that put on display by the actions of the angel of God in Genesis 21:17-19. God provides water for Hagar and Ishmael even though Hagar had thought they were going to die (or at very least that Ishmael was going to). Ishmael is taken care of by God, even if he is not the son of the promise.

So what kind of impact does this story have on us today? I find it to be a somewhat difficult question to answer. As I’ve mentioned on earlier chapters we often do not have the direct promises like Abraham had with Isaac, so the idea of God’s fulfillment of promise can be a bit more nebulous than it appears in this passage. That’s not to say that God doesn’t promise us anything, but that often they aren’t as concrete as I will give you a son.

Again the biggest take away seems to be the faithfulness of God. Both the birth of Isaac and the care of Ishmael show God being faithful to his word. What is interesting is how understated this faithfulness really is, particularly in the case of Isaac. While it is worded in a way to get the point across very little space is taken to acknowledge God’s faithfulness. One could almost call the presentation matter of fact. As if there was never any doubt God would do as he promised so why make too big a deal out of it.

Another aspect to think about looking at the larger story is that God spent much more time with Abraham working through his doubts and worries. When we come to the resolution of the promise God is obviously the cause of it, but is absent in any kind of role in the story. We see Abraham and Sarah celebrating, but God isn’t an active player.

Compare this to the story of Ishmael and we see something very different. In the uncertainty of what to do with Ishmael, God is there. He is there with Abraham letting him know that God will take care of his son. The angel of God is there to help Hagar and Ishmael in the desert. The longest engagements with God in the Abraham story seem to be about doubt and struggle.

While I don’t want to draw any formulaic expression from this tendency, it does give us hope that the God we often doubt, even as we believe, engages that doubt and the struggles of faith. This challenges the idea that we must never doubt or at least never show doubt in our faith. We see God dealing with the doubt of Abraham a number of times in this story, but still keep his word to Abraham. It’s strange that we see God most silent at the fulfillment of his promise. What we have a God that doesn’t find his faithfulness strange, but also doesn’t seem to find our human tendency to doubt, worry, and struggle to believe strange either.

The Gap Between God’s Plan and Ours

It’s funny how differently you can think about certain stories after you read them a number of times. You’d think that after going through a certain story multiple times you would stop being surprised or encountering new things and ideas. Going through the Abraham story this time has caused a number of these moments. The thing that really gets me in it is the very slow way that God disseminates information and the completion of His promise.

Genesis 17 picks up 13 years after the end of Genesis 16, which concluded with the birth of Ishmael. So it has been 13 years and we have no details of that time. For all we know it could have been thought that Ishmael was the son of the promise. Something we really lose when we read through a handful of chapters quickly is how time is handled in the story. Years are passed by in the flip of a page.

What is also strange, is for all the times that we’ve had God interact with Abraham, here is the place where Abraham finally receives the most direct information. God appears before Abraham and seems to give a fairly significant amount of information to Abraham.

We get a reiteration of promises already spoken of. It is also here that Abraham’s name officially changes from Abram to Abraham and Sarai changes to Sarah. Circumcision gets introduced as a sign of the covenant between Abraham’s family and God. We also have God finally come right out and say that Sarah will be the one to bear a son who will be the inheritor of this covenant.

It seems strange after all this time that we’re finally getting to these details. They seem, in my mind, to be details that would have been nice to have when the promise was first laid out. Personally, it still seems like it would take a good deal of faith to believe them even with the added detail. While I understand that the whole plan that resulted in Ishmael is presented as a lack of faith, I have a hard time faulting Abraham for it too much.

We still see this doubt in Abraham even now. When told of the fact that Sarah will have a son, he bows down and laughs. Abraham then asks if Ishmael could live under God’s blessing. As Walter Brueggemann puts it, “Abraham is no longer pressed to believe in an heir to be given, for he already had one, albeit in a devious way.” In Abraham’s eyes he has an heir and there is no need for God to provide another one.

While God agrees to bless Ishmael, Isaac will be the son of the covenant. Abraham’s plan may have been effective in getting him a son, and God will still bless him, but it wasn’t the plan God had in mind. It’s an interesting world where you can achieve the goal you thought God was after, and totally miss what God’s plan really was.

Maybe this is why I have a hard time swallowing whatever people tell me is God’s plan or that God would certainly be for or against something. Not that they couldn’t be right, it just often seems that what we think and the plans we make don’t always line up to what God thinks or plans. Even trying to say something like “I believe the Bible” isn’t entirely helpful. I mean after all, this story from the Bible of God and Abraham is about God not revealing the details of his plan right away, and Abraham in his doubt and uncertainty doing something that didn’t line up with God’s plan.

I do believe that the Bible is the best source we have for what God seeks for us and about what He is like, but that doesn’t mean it is some answer book for every situation in life. It is not a book of formulas and is often a book that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when placed beside our way of doing things. I mean even Abraham laughs about Sarah having a child as old as they are. The truth is we’d be laughing right beside Abraham if that same plan was revealed to us.

We are often just as content as Abraham to let things be done our way. “Hey, God, I’ve already got an heir now so don’t worry about what you were going to do, just bless him.” We accomplish something or view something some way and then simply want God’s stamp on it. The thing is, God doesn’t really seem to work that way in this story. God doesn’t seem particularly angry with Abraham for the doubt, laughter, the plan which gave Abraham a son, or even the questions Abraham sent his way, but the plan God had in mind was still going to happen.

There is a significant gap between the way that God accomplishes things and the way we try to. If the Abraham story is any indication, God moves slowly. He is willing to let Abraham go without too many specific details for decades. I don’t think that this gap has gone anywhere. God still works in ways that are backwards to our normal inclinations.

I know this, but don’t feel that I often have any better clue at tuning in to what God’s plans or desires are. I still struggle against the unknown future and how to best follow after God. To try to learn to embrace his different way of doing things and not seek short-cuts to do things my way. I’ll probably not succeed, but I imagine I won’t be alone in that.