Monday, March 18, 2013

Trust Worthy

Today's passage:  Genesis 12
    Abram and Sarai have not yet been blessed with children.  Abram is already 75 years old when God calls him to leave Ur and wander about the wilderness where He directs.  In that time, I'm sure that Abram had developed close relationships with nieces and nephews, particularly his nephew Lot.  Lot and Abram probably spent a lot of time together since it seems they both spent ample time shepherding.  Also, Lot's father, Haran, had died.  I don't know how young Lot was when this happened but the Bible tells us that Grandfather Terah was still living at the time.  I imagine that meant a few men in the family took on the role of father figure to Lot.  One of these men must have been Abram.  I'm sure that Abram and Sarai were more than happy to play Mother and Father to this young boy/man since they had no children of their own yet.  When it came time for God to call Abram away, I wonder if it was only natural that Lot went with them, or if after many emotional struggles at the thought of being separated did they decide this was the best course.  I had never stopped to ponder why Lot went with them.  It doesn't appear that he has a wife and kids at this time although verse 5 does say "...and the souls that they had gotten in Haran;..".  I don't really understand what that means, even after looking it up in commentaries and consulting my study Bibles.  The explanation is notably absent except to say that "souls" refers to people.  I kinda gathered that but what people they had "gotten" is still a bit of a mystery to me.  We don't read about Lot's wife until the whole Sodom and Gomorrah debacle so I think he must be unmarried at this point.  God does not mention that Lot's wife traveled with him.  So Abram, Sarai and nephew/son Lot along with some livestock and other mysterious "souls" travel to an unknown land.
God Tells Abram to Leave His Home
Taken from Standard Bible Story Reader, Book Three
By Lillie A. Faris
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
     Have you ever noticed that God asks Abram to do a lot of trusting in his life? I mean, I've always thought of the incidents separately but I have never really considered how much trusting Abram/Abraham was asked to do throughout his life.  God asks Abram to trust Him to lead him to a new land, sight unseen.  He asks him to trust Him to deliver the promise of an inheritance of lands and sons.  The Lord asks Abraham to trust Him to sacrifice that very son He had promised.  And it is no wonder that God keeps asking Abraham to trust Him so much, because this man does.  Maybe not always as perfectly as he should, but probably more perfectly than I would.  Yes, there are times in his life, where he lacks some faith and tries to do things his own way, and they don't turn out so well.  But he has a pretty good track record of trust, a trust so commendable that he is hallmarked in the Faith Chapter of Hebrews 11.
     I was thinking about trusting God so completely as Abraham did.  Women's greatest need is security.  We have a need to know where our home will be, where we will build our nest.  Can you imagine what a fit Sarai was having right about now?  "We are going to do what and go where?" And of course Abram just shrugs because he doesn't know either. Hebrews 11 doesn't really mention her faith at venturing out with her husband.  Her faith isn't mentioned until she had the strength to give birth to Isaac in her old age.  Abram was going to have to have enough faith for the both of them, because I picture them as nagging Golde and exasperated Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof packing up to leave Anatevka.  Lot is probably stuck in the middle of this argument, excited for a grand adventure, but wanting to soothe and comfort Aunt Sarai.  And they aren't exactly spring chickens anymore either.  This trip would also be exhausting (or exhilarating in Lot's case).
      To trust God so completely when you don't know where He will take you or what He will do with you is the ultimate display of faith in His leadership.  Abraham was able to trust God in the later issues of his life because God had proven Himself trust-worthy.  But what about this first time?  Abraham's trust here seems to be at its greatest because he didn't know what God would do.  Maybe God had proven Himself in small ways in Abram's life up to this point, but this is not a small thing.
      Soldiers trust their regiment commander.    Patients trust their doctors (or at least they used to). Defendants trust their lawyers. We are surrounded by situations where we have to trust others.  Why then, do we always seem to have so much trouble trusting God?  I mean, the trust I have in others could collapse.   An army general could wrongly assess a situation and lead his men into danger.  A surgeon could nick a wrong artery and lose his patient.  A lawyer could argue a case in a wrong manner and lose freedom for his client.   Many times I have no choice but to trust the people in my life.  So why do I make it a choice with God, when He has proven Himself throughout history to be the only One worthy of absolute trust?  Every time I fly in a plane, I am putting complete trust in the pilot and crew to get me to my destination.  Do I worry a little at take-off and landing?  Sure.  But it doesn't keep me from getting on the plane.  Yet, I don't always demonstrate that same trust in the Pilot who has a 100% success rate.
     Abraham trusting God is not just another sweet little Bible story.  When I think of how resistant I would be should God call me to a place He hadn't mapped out for me yet, how I would struggle to take even the first step, how my stomach would churn at the prospect of not knowing what to expect, it gives me an even greater awe for this man of God, and the wife who went with him (albeit possibly begrudgingly).  It forces me to reexamine how well I trust in the God who saved me.  I trust Him with my afterlife, maybe I should try a little harder to trust him with the before one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What's in a Name?

Today's passage:  Genesis 10-11
     One would think with as many weeks it has been since I have posted something that I would be a lot farther in Genesis than just five more chapters in a month, but it has been a little slow going.  Numerous reasons for this, the first one being Youngest started getting up almost immediately after older brothers were off to school.  The first couple weeks of our new schedule he was sleeping until 7:30 or so which gave me significant time to get my devotions done.  But his sleep schedule adjusted so that he was waking up an hour or more earlier.  As hard as I would try, I could only get a few verses read.  I have also been subbing at my sons' school quite a bit the last few weeks, and most of those times, I didn't know I would be subbing, so some days my devotions were cut short by trying to get Youngest and I ready to rush out the door.  The last reason for my delayed progress is that I have run into the chapters that have a lot of names and places listed.  For some this might be tedious but I find them fascinating.  I've said before that I put great stock in names.  So even though it takes a lot of time, I look every name up to see what it means.  And though, I have not learned a lot by way of application from these chapters, I certainly have learned a few things.
     What I find very interesting is that people in the Old Testament generally gave their children a name that had meaning.  It wasn't a random process like it usually is today.  They were purposeful.  Knowing that, I look at some of those names and think, well of course he turned out like that, look at what you named him.  Nimrod is a good example.  Take a guess at what his name means.  Rebellion.  He is the one who led the building of the Tower of Babel.  Seems like he was named appropriately.  Another name meaning something similar and also very appropriate is Gomorrah.  It means rebellious people.  Well, we can see a little self-fulfilling prophecy right there.
Courtesy of

     Other names I found interesting was Hazarmaveth.  It means dwelling of death.  I wonder what was happening in that family's life at the time.  And the most depressing name meaning I came across was Jobab.   I encourage anyone reading this not to consider this name for any future children.  It means "sorrowful; hated". Equally as bad is Obal.  It means "inconvenience of old age".   When you research the names it really gives you a window into many of these people in the Bible of whom we know little.  For many of them, not much is said, very little meaning or significance attached, just a passing list that we read so we can claim that we have read our Bible through in a year.  Poor Obal was obviously an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy,  his parents too tired to deal with a whimpering infant.  It makes me wonder what kind of adult he became.  It should also be noted that Hazarmaveth, Obal and Jobab were all from the same family, sons of Joktan whose own name means "small dispute; contention; disgust".   Sounds like a functional family and also seems as if Joktan himself was not necessarily the happiest person on the planet.
      Does that mean that every person in the Bible lived according to his/her name?  Probably not.  But when I think that these names were chosen on purpose, it certainly could lend to a successful or defeatist outlook in life.  Don't you think?  Wouldn't it be harder to overcome a name like Obal, than say a name like Isaac which means "laughter" or Samuel meaning "asked of God"?  Wouldn't it be obvious to the latter two tykes that they were wanted and loved?  Poor Jobab couldn't have had a very high self esteem, and though I believe in our times that self esteem is too over-emphasized, I think that these parents probably started their kids on a wrong track at birth.  God doesn't really tell us about how they turned out, but maybe that is because there was really nothing to tell.  They lived.  They merely existed.  We have their genealogy but little else.  Perhaps that is because they did not do anything note-worthy.  The next major character we read about is Abram (high father), who thankfully has a much more positive name, even before God changes it to Abraham.
      In our day and age, most people name their children without giving a lot of thought to the meaning but that is because names today have been derived from so many different languages, that in most cases, saying a person's name is not saying that word.  But in Bible times, that was not so.  The name was that word or idea.  So every time someone said Isaac, they were using the word the name means.  " There will be lots of Isaac/Laughter at the festival today."   Conversely, anything that brought disgust was "Joktan" to them.  That animal carcass lying at the side of the road?  Joktan.  Obviously I am not a Hebrew scholar and have no idea if I am using those words correctly as nouns, verbs, etc.  but you get the basic idea.  These were words used in everyday conversation so it would not be unusual to hear your name uttered numerous times a day.   When you are constantly reminded of the positives or negatives of your name, I would think it would undoubtedly affect how you live.  But maybe I am totally wrong, and these children lived healthy, well-adjusted lives.  Judging from what Joktan named some of his children, I think the evidence is against it.
     So as I plow through Genesis, I may get bogged down in the details of a person's name, but maybe it will give me a little insight into that person's life.  Maybe even a person's name is a lesson in itself.
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