Start with the End in Mind
There’s a movie starring Brad Pitt called, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” based on the short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald who also wrote, “The Great Gatsby.” The movie is based on a literary character living backwards in real time. What would our stories look like if we knew what the ending would be? It is much like God sees time and space. He sees all of it. It’s like looking at a straight line on a piece of paper; He can see the beginning and the end. That is certainly one reason to trust Him.
While we are continuing the story of Abraham and his family this week, let’s try to read it with the end in mind. Look at Genesis 15:3-6:
“Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look at the heavens and count the stars - if indeed you can count them.’ The he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
Abram wants a son, and feels his time is running out; God envisages a race with countless millions of descendants. Abram feels his life is approaching its termination and he has not seen much of God’s purpose in calling him out of Ur of the Chaldeans (last weeks readings); however, God sees the entire course of redemptive history. Still, Abram did have faith that acknowledged his dependence upon God and he took God at his word.
Now fast-forward to Genesis 21 and the birth of Isaac (which means “laughter” in the Hebrew language).
“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God has promised him…Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’” (Vs. 1-2, 6)
Why is Sarah laughing? She is laughing at her own doubts. She is laughing and rejoicing in God’s faithfulness. She is laughing because she has a son named, “Laughter,” who represents future generations with God overseeing the whole thing.
This is the call to us today, to take God at his word. To enjoy the story He is telling today in us. And to try to start with the end in mind, knowing that He will fulfill what He has promised.
Tips for Reading- (Observation tip # 3)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
Understand the imagery
Let’s continue our examination of personal Bible study methods. Last week your assignment was to look for repeated words. Did you find some? Were you able to make some connections? Again, just to remind you, as you read ask yourself “what do I see?” (Observation), “what does it mean?” (Interpretation) and “what does it mean to me?” (Application)
Here’s another observation tip. As you go through the daily readings, make sure you visualize what you are reading. If you are reading about Abraham, remind yourself what you already know about Bedouins (people who live in tents and travel in communities). Ask yourself questions like “what was it like to live like this?” “How did their living conditions affect the community?” If you are reading about the concubine, what do you know about this type of relationship?
The point is, these were real images to the original listeners and we need to hear it like they heard it. Understanding the author’s original intent of the words is so important.
If you are wondering how you are going to figure out the imagery, here are a few suggestions:
• You can Google these images and get a better picture of what the situations looked like as Jesus described them.
• Use a study Bible as a reference. Zondervan has recently published an amazing resource called the Archeological Study Bible. (That’s where I found out about concubine/marriage traditions of that period).
• A Bible Atlas or the maps at the back of your Bible will tell you things like how far it was for Abraham to travel from Ur to Hebron.
I know, this sounds like some work. Remember, knowing God is a day-by-day effort. Take it at a good pace. Look up one thing a day and see if you don’t become hungry for more!
Notes from David’s Journal
Please note Abraham's faith in these chapters. God promised him a child, secured in covenant, circumcision being the outward sign of that inward reality (Genesis 17). Abraham and Sarah were well beyond child bearing years. There was no reason to believe God would give them a child. But, Abraham continued to believe, naming his child "Isaac" which means "laughter." He named his son after his first response when he knew the child was coming. He laughed with delirious joy!
As you read these verses, you may also want to read Romans 4. In this chapter Paul points to Abraham's faith as the kind of faith he wants all of us to have when God gives us a promise, particularly the promise of eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins. Abraham didn't waver. He believed though he didn't see. He praised God for the promise's fulfillment though he didn't yet see it with his eyes.
What is your "Isaac" promise from God? A faith like Abraham's is what we all need. Prayers filled with faith move the hands of God. He loves to see when his children really believe no matter what the circumstances. May all of us have this kind of "mountain-moving" faith (Mark 11:23 and following). It makes God "laugh" when we do.