In this season of social distancing for most, and extreme isolation for others, as we all try to fight for faith in the face of COVID-19, I decided to share one thought a day from my daily devotional time in the hope of strengthening other’s hands in God (1 Sam 23:16), and encouraging friends forward in faith. You can subscribe at the bottom of the page to receive an email for each new post, and feel free to come back daily and share with anyone who might find them beneficial.
I use a reading plan that has me reading a few chapters in different parts of the Scripture for every day of the week, and so each day’s content will be dictated by the required daily reading of that plan. I will focus in on one unit of thought rather than trying to address the full scope of the day’s reading. I am trusting God that He will speak from different parts of His Word, as He always does.
Monday, March 23
Reading: Genesis 20-22
There are parts of Genesis that are pretty tough to read, and these three chapters are no exception. They read, in a way, like something George R.R. Martin might have dreamed up, although I think there are parts in this narrative that even his editors might have thought were a little too much for HBO. Abraham allowed his wife, Sarah, to be taken into a foreign king’s harem, under the premise that she was his sister. That isn’t the worst bit. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. He did the same thing in Egypt. That isn’t the worst bit. Sarah is, well, kind of Abraham’s sister, at least she is a very close relative (20:12-13).
I don’t say this to erode our confidence in the text in any way. Quite the opposite, I say it to point out both the “farness” and the “nearness” we feel in strange texts like this. It feels far and foreign to us, because, it is in a way. The conditions of the culture, the norms of behavior, the expectations of gender are all so strange to our modern, Western sensibilities. It is a helpful reminder that most of the Biblical narrative is set close closer to Damascus than it is to D.C. It happens in a context significantly close to Mosul than to Massachusetts. We need to do some work to understand it.
But, it also has a comforting nearness to it in the fact that is shows that God delights to covenant with very fallen people. He speaks to rebels, makes promises to no-hopers, endures with those that we wouldn’t have the patience for. There is a tremendous hope of grace to be found in the stories of our matriarchs and patriarchs, and we see it at play very clearly in Genesis 21.
Sarah is such a lesson to us. She had waited and waited and waited for her son, and then he arrived. You would think that the story would tell us that she lived content as a result for the rest of her days, but the Bible is too honest for that sort of Disney story telling. The boy was still young when Sarah’s eye caught the flourishing laughter of Ishmael, the son of Hagar, her slave, and the woman that Sarah had used and abused as a sordid surrogate when she couldn’t wait on the promises of the Lord. Her contentment was lost in the gaze of comparison. This is such a typical human response, finding ourselves unable to be satisfied with the blessings that God has given us, because our eyes are fixed on the blessings that He has given to another.
This resulted in an act of cruelty from Sarah through which Hagar and the boy were sent to die out in the desert. If ever there was a person who could feel unseen and unheard and unloved by God, it was Hagar. She had been used, abused, mistreated and maligned and as she sat under the harshness of the Middle Eastern sun, she had to turn her back on her young son as she couldn’t watch him die.
She wept and the boy cried, and the God of the heavens heard. It is one of the most unlikely and encouraging exchanges in all of Scripture.
“What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.” – Gen 21:17b
Friends, in our darkest days, when it feels like all is lost, when we feel alone and unseen, when there is nothing left to do but weep.
He is the God who hears.
So friend, fear not, for God has heard you. Cry out to Him. Take your anxieties to Him. He cares for you. He hears, and He makes a way in the desert when there seems to be no way.
Courage, dear friends.