A Bloody Mess

Genesis 15 depicts a bloody mess.

And it is a mess with multiple levels:

Abram, told that he is destined to be the father of nations, is beginning to stress that his servant looks like his only heir.  God repeats the promised of countless-as-stars descendants, but it is hard to embrace such words when an infant has never been held.

Abrahamic-Covenant-890x713God responded to Abram’s confirmation-seeking by instructing him to bring some animals. Together, they would enter a covenant ceremony. Abram set the stage by halving the animals (heifer, goat, ram, and birds). The slaughter pushed Abram into scarecrow duty, shooing off the vultures until dusk.

So there is the bloody mess: A man old enough to be a grandfather is beating buzzards off of chopped corpses, awaiting a sign from a God who appears unwilling or unable to deliver on His promises. Abram should have known better than to believe such foolishness. Who would possibly observe him arm-flapping and bird-shooing, and identify him as the father of great nation, innumerably populated as it pumped blessing into the whole world?

And now night was coming. Just great.

Genesis 15:12Scripture describes that a “dreadful and great darkness fell upon him” (Gen 15:12), and then from within the blackness, God delivered yet another shot. These promised descendants–the ones of whom not one yet existed–would travel a 400-year-stretch of slavery before even resembling a nation.

Did Abram envy those who knew not the darkness that came with God’s glorious promises? How much simpler it must have seemed to just live “one’s own life”, untouched by preposterous promises that raised ridiculous hopes!  A “dreadful and great darkness” indeed.

And that is when it happened.

“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram…” (Gen 15:17-18)

Yahweh went on to declare the specific land that He would provide for Abraham’s descendents. He was not backing down on His promise; in fact, He was firming up the details.

And then, most dramatically, He was binding Himself to Abram. In the vivid imagery of that day’s covenant-cutting, God tweaks just one detail. Just as “blood brothers” might cut themselves and shake hand to display their sealed partnership, the halved animals created a corridor through which two partners would walk. Their shared strides through the butchered beasts spoke a solemn tone of commitment: “I will come through on my part of this agreement, lest such violence befall me.”

God’s revision to the common ceremony?

He walked alone.

firebowlIn the form of a smoking pot and flaming torch, Yahweh covenanted Himself to Abram.

This future of promised descendants with a promised destination–it hung on God alone.  God was deadly serious about delivering on His word. His faithfulness was woven into His very existence–He would fulfill His vow. And it would not hinge on Abram’s faded verility or Sarai’s infertility.

God’s promised reality would hang, every ounce of it, upon His provision and power.

Abram’s role was to trust and obey.

And every believer, one of the stars in Abram’s sky, is today called to a similar dance of faith. We are called into lives of fruitfulness, influence, and blessing vastly beyond our means.

Sometimes, that will feel like a bloody mess.

All times, our role will be like Abram’s–to trust the Flaming One and to walk obediently as He reveals Himself to us.

YOUR TURN: What has God taught you about trusting Him? Are you struggling to trust today? Ever had an experience in which you just “knew” that He would come through? Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog by RSS or email, in this page’s upper right corner.]

Worry Results from Allowing Fear to Imagine the Invisible

worryWe all know there’s no value in worrying.

If a parent or teacher failed to personally tell us, voices throughout history are eager to chime in:

“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” (William Ralph Inge)

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” (Corrie ten Boom)

“Pray, and let God worry.” (Martin Luther)

“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Yet for all the persuasive voices speaking all the compelling words, worry takes hold on our souls.  What counter-move might we make against its persistent grip?

Charles Swindoll has offered this perspective:

“On the day Jesus was crucified, it would have appeared to anyone seeing through eyes of flesh that the darkness, the devil, and death had defeated the Son of God once and for all. I will admit that those three D’s lie at the root of almost every worry I suffer. I worry about DEATH – in particular, the death of the people I love. I worry about DARKNESS, both literal and figurative. I worry about what the DEVIL is up to. All three worked diligently throughout the ministry of Jesus to bring about this long and anguishing day. But what no one could see was that the Messiah’s death would strike at the very heart of evil.”

Worry results from allowing fear to imagine the invisible.

To be sure, there will always be an invisible realms–questions without answers, ventures without guarantees. Life, by its nature, is filled with blanks.

But the message of Scripture is that much of that space is filled by a God whose very nature is gracious and compassionate, slow to become angry and abounding in steadfast love.  Seen most vividly in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are dared to rein in our ability to quickly imagine the worst, in exchange for a freedom to steadily believe the best.

The Bible’s opening scene depicts a God of light that dwells in the darkness and a God of order than hovers over the chaos.  As Swindoll said above, these lessons were re-affirmed for all time in what we thought were the darkest moments of all.

As God says numerous times in Scripture, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

And He is.

Even more than you would believe!

YOUR TURN: How do you handle fear?  In what ways has your faith impacted your tendencies toward worry?  YOUR COMMENTS MAKE THIS POST BETTER.

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]