Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Isaac – a Story of Love & Loss

IMG_4579

Getting to know God and His Story will help you understand your own story.

This chapter of the story is about Isaac, the only son of Abraham and Sarah.

Abraham and Sarah were an Old Testament power couple for 127 years, but as Genesis chapter 23 opens, Sarah dies.  I wonder if they took time to look back on their life together before she passed.

They had been through so much together:  A road trip across the country without a GPS or an actual destination.  (see Genesis 12)  A difficult choice to separate from family, to live in the country while Abraham’s nephew got tangled up in the city life.  (see Genesis 13 & 14)  A challenging season of barrenness and the excruciating wait to become parents.

I wonder if they could look back and laugh about it.

37 years ago their lives were turned upside down when Isaac (his name means laughter) was born against all odds to this elderly couple; Abraham was 100, and Sarah was 90. (see Genesis 21)

37 years is all she got to spend with her son. I bet she cherished every diaper change, every late night feeding, every tumble as he learned to walk, every crack in his voice as he grew into a man, and every bit of stubble that grew on his precious chin.

37 years old, but Isaac wasn’t married. No mother-son conversation is captured on the pages of scripture, but I bet she had some sweet final words to say to her son about how to choose a bride. I bet she wanted him to find someone he could love deeply. I bet she wanted to be at his wedding.  I bet she was dreaming of holding her grand babies while she held onto the two men she loved most.

 

Abraham and Isaac stood together at home while their trusted friend, a life-long servant, left in search of a wife for Isaac.

 “Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. He said to the chief servant in his household…” keep reading (Genesis 24:2-23)

The trusted servant did exactly what Abraham and Sarah would have done if they’d been able to go themselves:  He prayed for wisdom and success, he expected God to answer his prayer, and he watched to be sure Rebekah was the one.

If you’re a parent, this chapter will someday become a part of your story.  Your child will probably choose his future mate on his own, but you can start teaching him now that there’s wisdom in watching someone’s character unfold.  You can start praying now for his success in choosing a godly wife, and you can wait expectantly for God to answer your prayers.

Scripture tells us that the servant took time to get to know the family and to ask Rebekah if she was willing and ready to go with him to marry Isaac. (Genesis 24:57-61)

Between verses 61 and 62, the days must have dragged on as Isaac waited for the servant to return. I bet he was out in the field star-gazing and meditating (dreaming!) about what his bride might be like.


“He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.” Genesis 24:63

He looked up…..then she looked up.

Genesis 24:64 “Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac.”

Sigh.

Keep reading (Gen. 24:64-65)

Scripture doesn’t fill in all the details, but as I put myself in the story and consider the feelings of a young woman leaving home to marry a man she’s never met, I have to believe that she asked lots of questions on the journey to her new home:  What’s Isaac like?  How tall is he?  Is he attractive?  What does he do for work?  Does he want children?  Do you think he will love me?

Asking lots of questions is a good way to interact with scripture, to get to know God, to see yourself on the pages of scripture.

Did you have someone in your life who told you about Jesus before you met Him? Maybe you had questions, and they had answers.  Because of what your friend told you about Jesus, you were ready to meet Him and to give your life to Him just as Rebekah was ready to give her life to Isaac.

When you get to know God and understand His Story, you can better understand your own story.

The servant told Rebekah all about Isaac, so when they finally saw each other… “she took her veil and covered herself.” (vs. 65)

It was marriage at first sight.

Genesis 24:67 “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” 

Loving others can fill up the empty places that loss leaves behind.  Loving Jesus, knowing just how much He loves you, can bring real comfort to your soul!

Isaac & Rebekah’s story continues in Genesis 25.

Keep reading.  Keep asking questions.

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Abraham (Part 2)

Everything’s going to be okay.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
My daughter just graduated from high school, and I’ve been thinking back on her first day of kindergarten. She was super excited to go to school, and at the same time, she was pretty nervous. She had a tendency to worry about the “what ifs” of life, and she often searched for reassurance that everything was going to be okay.

She had been taught to trust God in everything, and she prayed regularly about every little thing. It was so cute. Her dad and I would stand outside her bedroom door and listen to her go over her list of worries with God.

We taught her at a young age that God’s Word says,

Don’t worry about anything, instead talk to God about everything.

And she did. She worried a lot, so she talked to God a lot. Some days in the middle of a meltdown, she would stop and say, “I need to go to my room so I can talk to God.”

Philippians 4:6 New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done.

Her first week of kindergarten, she walked up to her teacher and boldly asked, “Do you know God?” Ruby was at a public school, and her teacher wasn’t quite sure how to answer. But after a long pause, her teacher responded with, “Yes, I think I do.” And I saw Ruby’s shoulders relax. Ruby reasoned that if her teacher knew God, then she could trust her.

Knowing God is the reason for studying the Bible. The more you read, study and understand the Bible, the more you get to know God.

Proverbs 2:3-5 (NLT)

3 Cry out for insight,
and ask for understanding.
4 Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.

Let’s look into the story of Abraham like we are searching for hidden treasure.

In Abraham (Part 1), you learned that Abraham waited a long time to have a son. He was 100 years old when Isaac was born to him and his wife, Sarah.

Abraham knew that Isaac belonged to God, but he and Sarah would have the honor of raising him and loving him as their own.

It is an honor and a privilege to care for a child God has entrusted to you.

I get to raise my daughter and love her as my own, but she’s not mine. She belongs to God.

When I look out for what’s best for my kids, I look through the filter of what’s best for me.

God’s not like that.

He looks out for the best for our kids. He created them, and He knows them better than we do. He loves them in a way that we aren’t capable of loving.

When God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, He wanted to be sure Abraham knew that Isaac didn’t really belong to him. God won’t likely ask you to hold a knife over your child. But He may ask you to cut away your control. He may ask you to let go and let Him lead her to what He knows is best.

If you’ve ever seen the story of Abraham and his son depicted in stained glass or an oil painting, you might picture an old man holding a knife over a baby on a stone altar. But you don’t want to let your preconceived ideas about scripture guide your treasure hunt; instead, look at the facts, explore the details and the specific words used in scripture.

If you’re with me on this treasure hunt, read the scripture below and look for clues that reveal Isaac’s age.

Genesis 22:1-8 (NIV)
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together,7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

As you look for the treasure in this scripture, some clues you may notice about Isaac’s age are:

“Some time later…” Isaac was no longer a newborn.
“We will worship..” Isaac was old enough to know how to worship God.
“Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac…” Isaac was old enough to carry wood up the mountain.
“Isaac spoke up and said…” Isaac was old enough to speak and to realize that they were heading up the mountain to worship God with a sacrifice, but they were missing the sacrificial lamb.

Even if you’re not an investigator by nature, you can see how these clues are valuable in understanding the bigger picture.

God had promised this son to Abraham and Sarah, and He allowed them to enjoy Isaac for “some time.” So why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

There’s a clue in verse 1 –  “God tested Abraham.”

Abraham’s heart was ready to pass the test.

Genesis 22:9 (NIV)

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

This just got real. Young Isaac could have wrestled down his old dad. He could have fought. But Abraham bound him and put him on the altar.

Genesis 22:10-14New International Version (NIV)

10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

God wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than he loved his promised and long-awaited son.

Obedience won’t always be easy.

Abraham learned the hard way how to be obedient to God even when it hurts.

God provides, but we don’t always see it happening.

Abraham was willing:

He walked in obedience up to the top of the mountain, willing to sacrifice his son. God provided a ram to go up the other side of the mountain.

God was ready to provide:

You can’t usually see what God is doing on the other side of the mountain when you’re in the middle of a test or trial. But you can trust Him as the God who Provides.

God has never asked me to sacrifice my daughter as a burnt offering. But He is asking me to let go of the control. He is asking me to trust Him. He is asking me to sacrifice her in my heart, to prove that my love for God is greater than my love for her.

I am trusting that God has prepared her for the journey ahead of her, and that He has enabled her to not only ask others, “Do you know God?” But to also ask, “Would you like me to tell you about Him?”

When you look for hidden treasure in the Bible, God will help you understand, and you will get to know Him better.  As you obey Him, He will equip you to tell others about Him, too.

If you are willing to obey Him, He is always ready to provide.  You can trust Him to make everything okay.

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Tower of Babel

ba·bel

babəl,ˈbā-/
noun
a confused noise, typically that made by a number of voices; a scene of noisy confusion

quotationMarks

 

As a self-proclaimed grammar geek, I tend to fixate on punctuation when I read. In the story of the Tower of Babel, it’s the quotation marks. Within these quotation marks, there are two separate conversations.  If you go with me on this, even if you’re not a grammar geek, I think you’ll appreciate taking a closer look at both conversations.

Continue reading “Tower of Babel”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Noah (Part 2)

When God told Noah to move his family, (I’m just filling in the pieces here) I bet Mrs. Noah had some questions about their temporary housing situation.

moving_truck

 

Today as I write this lesson about Noah, my family is in the middle of a move. In just a few weeks we will be packing up and moving from Arizona to Southern California. Our temporary housing has been secured, but we have only seen it online. Today my husband is walking through our rental house in California for the first time, and I have lots of questions about the details of where we will be living. Is that extra space really a bedroom or just a glorified closet? What is the square footage? Will our furniture fit? Is there space for all of our stuff, or do I need to have a garage sale? How close is it to the school? How close are the neighbors? Is there air conditioning?

My questions are not about why we are moving or whether or not God is leading our family. I trust God completely with my life and my future, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions about some of the details.

If God told your husband to build a gigantic boat because a catastrophic flood was coming, you might have a few questions about the details, too.

Each detail of the plan was likely met with a question:

Genesis 6:13-22

Genesis 6:13 (NIV)
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”

I bet Mrs. Noah was quick to ask what would happen to their family. “Is God relocating our whole family? The kids, too? And their wives?”

Genesis 6:18 (NIV)
“But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.”

Noah had three sons (vs. 10): Shem, Ham and Japheth, so that makes eight people on the move.

Genesis 6:14 (NIV)
So make yourself an ark…

I bet Mrs. Noah asked something like, “What’s the square footage?”

Noah had never built an ark before, so God gave lots of details.
He would build an ark of cypress wood with rooms in it, 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.

All that square footage meant they wouldn’t be traveling alone. “What about pets?”

Genesis 6:19 (NIV)
You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.

So that’s a yes to pets. Two of every kind, male and female. Genesis 7 explains that Noah should also take 7 of every kind of clean animal. These would be used in a sacrificial offering to God on the other side of the big move.

Well now, that probably brought up a whole new set of questions: “Where will we put all of them? How many bedrooms? Bathrooms?”

It is estimated the ark could hold 100,000 sheep-sized animals, but they weren’t just hauling sheep-sized animals, so there were likely about 35,000 animals on the ark.

When God gave Noah instructions for the ark, he said to make “rooms” inside (vs. 14). Think of something like “nests” for each animal – perfect for hibernation, and I’m guessing the sons were put in charge of mucking the stalls.

My first question about a new house is, “What is the kitchen like?” So I’m betting Mrs. Noah had similar concerns.

Genesis 6:21 (NIV)
You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.

This must have been an overwhelming task. I’m guessing Mrs. Noah probably asked, “What moving company are we using?”

Genesis 6:20 (NIV)
Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.

Will come to you? I guess migration is a possibility in this scenario. Animals weren’t afraid of man just yet since God didn’t clear them for food until after the flood. And God did set man up to rule over the animals, but even so, I have a hard time imagining Noah and his sons wrangling 35,000 wild animals into an oversized cage through one door.

God can do things that are impossible for man to do, and I believe He can communicate with animals, so maybe He just whispered in their ears to make a beeline for the ark, and they did. The animals came to Noah.

Check out what happened in Genesis 7:8-16

“When is our move-in date?”

Genesis 7:4 (NIV)
Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights…

“What’s our lease agreement?”

Genesis 7:24 (NIV)
The waters flooded the earth for one hundred and fifty days

So it rained for 40 days, but then the water continued to build for 4-5 months and then took 7 months to recede.  Noah & family were in the ark for over a year!

God takes care of the details

We often worry about details over which we have no control.  Noah and his sons couldn’t have possibly forced all those animals to get to the boat AND go in the boat AND stay there!

We worry about these details that God is already taking care of, but we neglect to take care of our attitudes, our relationships, and our responsibilities that ARE under our control.

When you trust God to lead you, you will obey His commands and trust Him to take care of the details.

Trust builds relationship

Genesis 8

Genesis 8:4 (NIV)
…the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat

I have to wonder if the animals started to get restless without the rocking motion of the waves. If some of the animals had been hibernating on board, perhaps the sudden stop startled them out of their slumber.

Noah sent out a raven, then a dove. He sent the dove out three times. The first time, it just flew back to him, indicating that the water was still covering the land. The second time, the dove brought back hope in the form of an olive leaf. And the third time, the dove never returned to the boat.

Then God told Noah he could come out of the ark.

Genesis 8:15-17 (NIV)
Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”

Noah’s family must have been so relieved to finally be released from the ark. Their temporary housing situation was likely feeling smaller and smelling stronger as the days parked on the mountain dragged on.

But stepping out into the bright sunlight probably prompted another question, “Now what?”

God destroyed the earth by flood because He wanted to slow down the progression of sin. Now He would set up Noah as the authority to rule over the people.

Then He sent Noah and his family out to start over with new adventures and strong relationships.

Genesis 9:1 (NIV)
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”

Blessing always follows obedience

Living out the adventures God takes you on can take you through a wide range of emotional highs and lows. It must have been overwhelming for Mr. & Mrs. Noah to think of starting over. It must have felt lonely, like being stranded on a desert island.

Noah and his family needed a reminder of why they had committed to all of this change.

In Genesis 6:8, God mentioned a covenant He was making with Noah and his family.

A covenant is a promise, a contract, or a mutual agreement.

Chapter 9 has a lot more to say about that covenant.

Genesis 9:13 (NIV)
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

God gave a reassuring promise with a colorful reminder: never again will a flood do such destruction. As long as the earth remains, the seasons will always come as expected, and a rainbow will be visible when it rains as a sign to all that God will keep His promises.

Noah obeyed everything the Lord commanded.
It doesn’t say he understood everything the Lord commanded.

Proverbs 3:5,6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

You can trust the God who keeps His promises to lead you and your family through every detail of life.

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Noah (Part 1)

When I get stressed, I eat chocolate. Some people drink coffee or soak in a bubble bath or take a walk. I should probably choose a walk over chocolate, but who has time for that? Semi-sweet chocolate chips are my go-to for a quick fix.

What if I made God my go-to in times of stress?  Turning to God and His Word leads to peace and doesn’t stick me with that empty feeling I always find at the bottom of the bag of chocolate chips.

FullSizeRender-2

Noah’s situation was stressful. The details were overwhelming. God told Noah to lead his family to build a huge boat to avoid a flood in a community that had never seen rain. Then he would need to herd hundreds of wild animals into a boat-shaped cage. Can you even imagine the stress that weighed on Noah each night as he struggled to sleep?

I wonder if Mrs. Noah stashed some chocolate in a secret compartment on the ark.

The Bible says that Noah wasn’t overwhelmed with all the details because he walked with God. He’s also described as righteous and blameless. Who was this guy and how did he get to this point? I’m glad you asked.

Continue reading “Noah (Part 1)”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

The First Sin

My first grade teacher was the principal’s wife, so we often enjoyed the privilege of her husband stopping by our class parties. Mr. Madison embodied the same magical presence as Santa Claus, so when he stopped at my table and looked at the tree I was drawing, my heartbeat sped up. He showed me how to make a few of the branches look more natural by drawing a little circle at the end. I tried it on a few branches, and wow! This little touch changed everything! Before long, my tree was looking so artistic! I was so proud and wanted to show it off to Mr. Madison. He took one look at my circle laden branches and gave a big Santa belly laugh, and my cheeks felt hot. He wasn’t trying to embarrass me, but I felt so ashamed. His reaction opened my eyes, and I realized that I had misunderstood his instructions. Rather than enhancing my tree by drawing circles at the end of a few branches, I added circles to every branch, making it appear naked.

images

Adam & Eve felt no shame

…until their eyes were opened, and they were led to believe there was something wrong with being naked. But who fed them that lie?

In Genesis chapter 3 the enemy is at work as soon as Adam and Eve are joined together in marriage and called to live out the mission that God has for them:

– to rule and subdue the earth (authority)
– to increase and multiply (adventure)
– to walk with God and get to know Him deeply (relationship)

Continue reading “The First Sin”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament, Uncategorized

One Helpful Word about Eve

If you could describe yourself with just one word, what would it be?

just one Word-jamielanedesigns

God uses just one word to describe the first woman in Genesis 2, but what He has to say about Adam before Eve was created gives insight into the one word He chooses.

Only once in the Creation story does God declare that “it is NOT GOOD.” After 6 consecutive days of creating and declaring, “it was good,” God forms the first man with His own hands and then declares, “it is not good for the man to be alone.”

Before God created the first woman, He was pleased with how His creation turned out. He formed the earth and sky, and then He filled them up. Everything was made to fulfill a purpose, and that was good.

So it is a stark contrast for God to declare that something is “NOT GOOD.”

Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Adam needed a “helper.” Some Bible translations say, “helpmeet,” but what does that word even mean?

You’re already learning to ask two important questions in Bible study:
What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Another valuable question in Bible study is:
What does this word mean? What did it mean in the original text?

The Old Testament text was written in Hebrew, so it can be helpful to use a resource like www.blueletterbible.org where you can search the meaning of a specific word.

Helper = EZER

The Hebrew word for “helper” here is ezer (ay’-zer), and it’s worth looking into how it’s used in the Bible:

Ezer describes Eve’s role as helper in Genesis 2.

Ezer also describes God’s role as Israel’s strong helper in times of trouble. It’s used 16 times in the Old Testament; here’s one example: Deuteronomy 33:29.

Ezer is also used as a powerful Hebrew military word meaning warrior.

It makes sense that God would use military language to describe Eve’s role and to mobilize her into action. God created Eve with a mission.

Continue reading “One Helpful Word about Eve”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Adam & Eve

History is full of men & women who have reshaped our world in one way or another. But no two people have turned history so significantly or as permanently as the first man & woman: Adam & Eve.

81b3b266a9a26265f00b90508809f19a

As you look at the life of Adam & Eve in the second chapter of Genesis, you can ask yourself two key questions:

What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Continue reading “Adam & Eve”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Creation (Part 2)

God didn’t create anything to leave it empty.

FullSizeRender

 

My daughter and I went to one of those pottery painting places, feeling creative and optimistic about our Pinterest-inspired intricate design plans.  We both chose to paint oversized coffee mugs, and after they had been fired in the kiln, we were pretty smitten with our creations.  The first thing we did was to fill them with ice cream and enjoy what we had made!  We hadn’t spent all that time carefully painting useless display mugs that would just sit empty; we were excited to enjoy what we had created.

God didn’t create anything to leave it empty. He created the heavens and the earth, and then He filled them up with plants and trees, the sun and moon and stars, fish and birds and all kinds of animals. After He had spoken all of nature into being, He looked at all of His creation and saw that it was good.

Continue reading “Creation (Part 2)”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Creation (Part 1)

The beginning is a good place to start.   
 "The Beginning" Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.
If you’ve ever decided to read through the Bible, then you’ve probably read the story of Creation because it’s right there at the beginning of the book. It’s a good place to start because it will give you a knowledge-base to build on as you learn more about the Bible.

 

The Creation story answers some of life’s biggest questions like, “Where did we come from, and why are we here?” But in order to find the answers to these big questions, you will want to do more than just read the words on the page.

It’s the difference between reading and studying scripture.

When you study scripture, you interact with it by asking questions and taking notes. You engage scripture by drawing a picture in your mind or on paper of what the scene may have looked like. You look at it from different points of view so that you can be sure to discover the meaning of the scripture you’re studying.

Asking yourself two basic questions will help you move from reading to studying the Creation story:

Two Questions
What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

First Question: What do you learn about God in the first verse?

God is eternal – At the beginning of recorded time, He was already in existence.
If you’d like to read more about how God has always existed, check out https://answersingenesis.org/answers/biblical-authority-devotional/where-does-god-live/what-was-god-doing-before-creation/

God is Creator – He creates something from nothing.

Genesis 1:2-5 (NIV)
“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness He called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day.”

Continue reading “Creation (Part 1)”