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Genesis 33: Go Home and Get A Life

The ten brothers traveled together to collect the grain from the neighboring country that seems to have plenty. Egypt had plenty of grain stored. That’s because they had a wise man as their governor who planned for the future. He knew through divine knowledge what was coming their way, and so he prepared the nation for it. 

The brothers who traveled together to Egypt had a great time on their way. Because when brothers live in unity, there is peace, prosperity, and love. For the sons of Jacob, what awaited them in Egypt was much more than what they had imagined. 

Joseph, the Governor of Egypt, was paying attention to all who walked through the doors of their halls. He had a responsibility to keep the blessings going. Joseph listened to his inner voice to guide the Pharaoh so that his world will not go into famine. He also wanted to protect the produce, care for the people, do justice, and show mercy to those who showed up at their doors. In a way living the rule of Micah 6: 8 

O mortal, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God

Something incredible to remember at this time was the absolute welcome Egyptians gave to all who came to them for food and security. 

We are in a world that is fragmented by wars, terrorism, migration, and refugees. Every continent today is suffering from these kinds of human tragedies caused by human greed. Every nation on earth is affected by the suffering of one kind or another created by mankind. People flee from one place to another for the safety of their loved ones — all stemming from one thing, greed with un-forgiveness. 

In this context, what happened in Egypt thousands of years ago, at the time of Joseph, is eye-opening. Joseph opened the borders, shared the wealth, and made themselves available to the needs of anyone who came through their doors. 

Our world could learn a lesson or two from the days of famine in Egypt at the time of Joseph. But then that’s not the only lesson we can learn, and that’s where the story of Joseph and his brothers become even more fascinating and compelling. 

The people of Egypt and their Pharaoh were wise in their listening to the slave in prison, Joseph.

They were wise in their savings directed by this man.

They were wise in their spending directed by this immigrant.

They were wise in showing dignity to human beings regardless.

So when the brothers walked into the area where the grain was being distributed, Joseph saw them. He recognized them. His heart leaped with joy, anxiety, and sheer wonder at the ways of God. He never expected to see his brothers, who sold him to slavery, to be standing in life to collect their food. He never expected to be the one standing in the place he was, the governor of the land, to dispense mercy. He had every reason to hate, punish, and retaliate against his brothers. Because they deserved every bit of retribution from Joseph for what they did to him, they, his own flesh and blood, sold him into slavery. But in reality, it was God who bought Joseph into slavery so that God can bring him into freedom. It was freedom not just for Joseph but for the entire nation of Israel. Joseph knew this blessing of God, and now it was his turn to do the same. It’s worth reading the story of Joseph and his brothers in the chapters of Genesis 42-45. The unfolding of this story in these chapters shows how mysterious and powerful is God’s ways. 

Through tragedy and terror, God still rules the roost

In this story, what we find is this powerful image of God interacting with human hearts in such a way that brings about awareness, acceptance, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.

There is something powerful Joseph does without talking much about it. He hugs them and kisses them. He cries. He weeps with joy and love. His tears were not tears of sadness or anger. His eyes were filled with gratefulness rather than revenge. Even though his brothers sold him, Joseph’s actions were to restore wholeness beyond the events of the day. His actions were pointing to one thing. Forgiveness. I forgive you was the meaning of his hugs, kisses, weeping, laughing, and eating together. Several gestures for one emotion. Several ways of saying I forgive. It is not in words, but actions; the best, easy, simple, powerful way to say, “I forgive you.”

On 8/8/88, August 8 in 1988, I was in a big kitchen in a monastery in Kerala, India cutting vegetables for the big lunch we were preparing. The lunch was for the reception to be held after the funeral of one of our priests, a great man, Fr. Claude. He was the Deputy General for the English speaking world in the Capuchin Order. He died that morning, and people were flowing into the chapel where his body was laid. In the Capuchin Order, the death of a friar was also a day of grand celebration because it was the birth of a saint in heaven. I remember this day because of two reasons, one of course for the death, second for what I did that day. 

As I was cutting the vegetables, in the corner of my eyes, I saw Fr. Thomas, who did not quite like me. I knew it, and there were many things that can be said for the reason why he did not care for me. Even though I did not do anything to him in particular, his blessing and forgiveness were necessary for me to move forward in my spiritual journey. I needed to bless and forgive him in return, as well. So when I saw him standing behind me getting a cup of coffee, I approached him to ask for his forgiveness. As I was approaching him, I saw fear in his eyes. I did not understand why? Then I realized I had a knife in my hand. I dropped the knife on the floor immediately and walked towards him. As I got to him, I knelt on the kitchen floor and asked for his blessing. For what he did to me, that’s all I could do the best way to show that I forgave him. 

He lifted me up off the floor and hugged me tightly. He said, “Jos, I bless you. You will be a blessing to the world.” If I can be honest, that was the best revenge I could have ever had against someone that is to help them bless me. “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this, you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12: 20. 

When someone does something against you, our temptation is to return the favor in the same way but twice more. It is easy to pay evil with evil. The reaction is more natural than a response. It is hard to be kind to those who harm you. One needs to train oneself to be responsive than reactive. Reactive people destroy oneself and the other. But when we learn to response we will give life. Hear what Paul says to the Romans.

“Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”.” Romans 12: 16-19 MSG

When Isaac had his two sons, Esau and Jacob, like any parent in the world, it was a day of celebration. Parents had great dreams and hopes for the future of their two boys. They did not know what was in store for them other than they would protect and provide for whatever they needed. They hoped for those two boys to grow up healthy, happy, and watching for the back of each other. Never, I am sure, they thought these two boys would end up where they did. Of course, their mother played a part in their ultimate destiny. Brothers in disarray are the last thing a parent ever would want for their children. 

Everybody made a mistake in the story. That’s the best part of the story. Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob, the whole little family, made mistakes after mistakes. No-one in the story is a saint. But God turns the wheel here and opens possibilities through it. He moves the blemishes into blessings. That’s where we find responses are more powerful than reactions. God always responds and do not react. That’s why we can not catch God in revenge, evil, or retaliation. He acts out of love and not out of spite.

Jacob was afraid of Esau. Jacob had every reason under the sun to be scared of him. Because he stole the birthright and the father’s blessing that was meant for Esau from him. Esau lost his future and his security because of it. 

So when Jacob met Esau towards him with his 400 men, he was afraid. He was terrified that it was the end of the day for him. He regrouped and did everything to protect his family, his belongings, and himself. All of a sudden, you see how humble Jacob became. He called his brother “my lord” and introduced to him his children and family.

But Esau, on the other had already let go of all the animosity he may have had one time towards Jacob for everything that was done to him. Esau was not ready to be bogged down by what Jacob did. Instead fly light by letting go of hurts, fears, and anger. He ran to Jacob and hugged his neck, kissed him, and danced with his nieces and nephews. Genesis: 33

Someone once told me unforgiveness is like you taking the poison yourself and waiting for your enemy to die. Not being able to forgive another is equal to killing oneself. Because the one you are to forgive doesn’t know what all things are going on in you. Your anger may be eating you alive. Your fear may be sucking the life out of you. But the one to be forgiven has no clue about it. So he or she goes about in his or her merry way, which makes you even angrier. That adds to illness in you. You burn with anger, revenge, and evil intentions, which contaminates your heart. 

Yesterday is the past. Today is present. The future is tomorrow. You can do something about today. That’s all the control you have. The past is purely a memory that you only have access to in your mind. That’s where hurts of all kinds reside. That’s the realm that needs forgiveness and letting go. The only one with access and control of what is gone is God. The future is simply a hope only God has access to. Therefore, holding onto what you don’t have control over is a pure waste of time and energy. Day dreaming without doing something about the future is equally foolish. Whatever needs to happen for the past or for the future, needs to happen in the present. What happens now, can change the effects of the past and the future in miraculous ways.

In the Old Testament, there is a story of a guy named Adonijah, who was terrified of Solomon. He had every reason to be terrified of him because of the way he felt about King Solomon. The king knew of his feelings towards him as well. But the king did not want to waste his energy or time worrying about tomorrow. After all, he is the king, and he can do whatever he wants to whenever he wanted to. So, King Solomon leaves the future to the future and let go of the man who had thrown himself to the altar. Solomon responded to those who were afraid around him, “If he proves to be a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 1 Kings 1:52-53. Then King Solomon sent to have him brought down from the altar. He came to do obeisance to King Solomon; and Solomon said to him, “Go home.”

When I think forgiveness, this is my favorite phrase. Go home and get a life. There is no reason to waste your time on all the things you could do to someone who has mistreated you. But I like this simple command from King Solomon, who tells Adonijah, “go home.” 

This is what Joseph does to his brothers. He hugged their neck and told them to go home and get a life. And when they return to bring their youngest brother to them. He wanted to see him.

When Esau met Jacob, that’s what he does to him as well. Go home, Jacob, and get a life. Don’t waste your time in fear of me doing something to you because I don’t have time for it.

Jesus tells the same to the woman caught in adultery, go home. 

He says to Matthew, come home, live life with me.

To the paralytic, he says, pick up and go home, live life. 

To Zacchaeus, he says, take me home and dine with me. 

To the man crucified on his right side, Jesus says, you will be home with me from this forward.

To those who crucified Him, Jesus said, Father, welcome them home any day they are ready. Forgive their sins and offenses. Forgive their ignorance. Father, do not abandon them in this land of exile. They belong to you and to me, in our home, in heaven.

Divine forgiveness is this being home. It is about offering your heart to someone to be their home. The other person may not take it. But being home means being at peace within. It is telling someone out there whom you like and dislike to come home to a place of security and safety. Divine forgiveness invites people to settle and be home and live life. 

© Fr. Jos Tharakan – 2019

Genesis 32: The Divine Power

These days everyone wants special powers. Children have wands that mimic the powers of the magicians. Adults are fascinated by stories that speak of magic. Movies are coming out every day that enchants us to have the power we want through some incantations and use of formulas. Power is attractive and hard to let go of. People who have experienced the power, it is like an addiction that they can’t easily let go of. Power corrupts. 

In Biblical terms, power is very different. According to various stories we read in the Bible, we find power comes from our courage to strive with God. You have to struggle with God. Power comes not easily but because you are willing to put yourself to test, and even God. You may have to struggle with all that you are. That includes the understanding of God and the very foundation of your trust. 

You can be assured that you can come out of such doubt of who you are and where God is in flying colors because the one who empowers you to see yourself is God. Ultimate power is the power that comes from this self-awareness empowered by God. 

Elijah and Elisha crossed the river. That was the last journey for the senior prophet, but Elisha did not know that. Elijah rolled up his mantle and struck the water. Then the water parts just like it happened to Moses leading the people out of Egypt. They both cross through the dry land to the other side. The story then goes on to say Prophet Elijah was lifted up in heaven, he leaves the mantle to Elisha and so forth. 

Prophet Elijah left behind the mantle, which he rolled up to part the water. Elijah left behind a possession that gave him all the power to part the water, and the change course of history behind. The mantle that rolled off of the shoulder of Elijah was purely a symbol of awareness that it is useless in the life then forward. In itself, it did not contain any power. It only solidified Elijah’s faith in God that became the power. 

It is the faith in God that strengthens the power in us. By you, O God, I can crush the troop and jump over the fence, says the Psalmist. (Psalm 18:29) Everything that stops us from achieving our greatness can be crushed if we are strong in God. Everything that stops us from reaching our potential can be hopped over when God is our partner. Because the one who strengthens us no one other than God alone. 

I sometimes watch movies that have war scenes from the olden days. Movies and shows like The King, Game of Thrones, have scenes where the commander of the army giving pep talks. He comes in front of his troops, telling them how wonderful they are. He tells them what they are about to accomplish in this fight. He reminds them how wonderful it is for them to die for the cause they are about to enter into. The result for most of those men in the story is death, and they know it. But they are pumped up because of the pep talk given by their commander. 

But then I wonder who is stronger there? Is it the one who is leading the pack or those who are fighting in the front lines? Of course, it is the one who can mobilize men to go into the claws of death. He has such power with his words; the foot soldiers will give their lives for him, and for the cause he wants them to die for. 

It is called wisdom. Wise thoughts help them to form wise words to induce power into people. Their words have gained power beyond what others can actually deny. It’s like what the proverb says, “wise warriors are mightier than strong ones and those who have knowledge than those who have strength.” Proverbs 24:5. The divine power lies in divine wisdom. 

Why else should have counselors to help us through tough times? Why else should there be advisers around a person who has to make big decisions? Because “in abundance of counselors there is victory” according to proverbs. 

Let us put it this way. When you can see different angles of a situation, which one person alone can not come to many times, there will be solutions that help the most. If you are acting out of one worldview without being aware of another worldview, your actions will be limited, and your efficacy will be compromised. A good leader is someone who can look at as many different sides of the same problem and then come up with a solution collectively, meaning with the counsel of his wise friends around him. 

There is divine power when we take the model of the Trinity. The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit, three divine beings work together to come to a cohesive plan when implemented is perfect. Each one has a role to play, but each one also has a role in counseling. Each member of the Trinity is specific in His or Her duty, just as much as each one provides the necessary council to the other. 

In the beginning, it was chaotic as the scripture says, and the Holy Spirit moved over it to make things happen. As the potential for everything was planted simultaneously, God moves into action to create and then to recreate and provide eternal assurance through the second person of Jesus. All three work in conjunction with the other so that no piece of the puzzle is lost in the process. 

The divine power also requires outrageous patience for God and for man. Even though mankind sinned, failed, and went their own way as the first chapters of the Bible say, God was not in a hurry to send His Son that he promised at the very beginning of this whole fiasco. Of course, I am calculating from a human perspective, because that’s all I can do as a human. I do not have a preview to the divine timeline, or divine sense of time. To me, it took long thousands of years before the promise, Jesus, came to be.

When the Psalmist says, “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,” it is a pure and powerful statement of the way how one gains strength for the journey. It is not just that gives us strength for the journey; it also gives us a worldview, an overview like that of an eagle in the sky looking down on everything below. The eyes of wisdom are hovering over all the problems of the world. Isaiah 40:31

You have read the stories of Esau and Jacob in the Bible. It is said over and over in the womb their mother, Rachel, Esau, and Jacob fought for the primacy. It may be a metaphorical explanation of how they came to be what they eventually turned out; this fight for supremacy continues after their birth. Even though Esau was the firstborn, and therefore, with all the birthright and power, the one who gains them all is Jacob. Regardless of how he got there, it is said, again and again, he got there because he fought for what he believed was his right not alone but with God. It was God who broke his bones because he was fought with God over what be believed to be his. That kind of faith is called power. It is called divine power beyond human making. 

In the book of Zachariah, there is a great story of his call to ministry. When he was called, he was given several visions to hold on to for strength and courage. To deal with situations that will arise, he would need them, and therefore, God granted them to Zachariah. One of those visions was that of the Priest Joshua and Satan. The Satan was there to accuse Joshua of everything and even threw the kitchen sink, as we say, at him, for all that went wrong in life. Joshua, of course, had every reason to believe the Satan may be right. But being an upright man, and a chosen one of God, he did not know what to do. God had to intervene and rebuke Satan for making Joshua feel the way he felt and came to his rescue. However, Joshua was wearing filthy clothes, head down, sad and afraid, standing scared for whatever it is that Satan is throwing at him. So the Lord commands His angels to cloth Joshua with clean clothes. Take off the old ones and put on the new ones. 

In Paul’s words to the Ephesians, “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4: 22-23.

So the angel removes the filthy clothes, which is said to be filth of guilt and fear. What God asked the angel to remove is not his physical clothes rather than inner clothes of guilt, which is not a divine quality out of him. He has been redeemed, loved, and protected by God himself, and there is no reason to be afraid of Satan, who was taunting him. So the command was to remove the filth of guilt out of him so that he can shine with the power of God. The angel was asked to clothe him in festal clothes, meaning, the clothes that make him clean, happy, princely, and royal. Because in it lies power. The Lord then put a turban, a crown, and an anointing on him, assuring Joshua that it is God who empowers him and nothing else. Zachariah 3. 

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.” Zachariah 3: 7. 

Divine power removes your filth and guilt. 

It is then God will grant you the power to heal, to cast out the unclean, to bring life back. Jesus had to remove the filth of those whom he called first before he clothed them with the power. He called his disciples one after another. 

To Peter he said, he was good enough to be the rock. 

To Thomas, he said he was good enough to question him. 

To John, he said he was clothed enough to be present to him.

To Matthew, he said he is rich without the wealth of the world. 

To James and John, he said, they don’t need the first place to be in the heart of God. 

To Andrew, he said the true search is better than anything. 

To Judas, who didn’t believe it, Jesus said he trusts him with his treasure. 

I have come to enjoy the songs by Lauren Daigle. In one of her albums, she sings a song called, “You Say.” 

In her lyrics, she speaks of the inner voices that say she is not enough, or she will never measure up to the standards of the world. She can not be what the world expects her to be. She feels sad and lost. She can’t seem to be what the rest of the world expects of her to be. Then she goes on to say whenever she does that she hears the voice in her heart that says, “I am loved, when I can’t feel a thing, I am strong, when I feel I am weak, I am held when I am falling short, when I don’t belong, you say, I am yours.” She continues her journey by saying again and again, “I believe.” It is a mantra in her heart that is repeated. I believe that makes her stand up, hold up, measure up, and grow up. In that, she finds her identity, and she finds her worth. 

This is what I call divine power. Jesus removes the guilt, the filth first and then tells them how powerful they are. “He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.” Matthew 10: 1

Remember your filthy clothes have been removed, and you are now dressed in festal clothes just like God clothed his priest Joshua when Satan was taunting him with lies and rebukes. Then God takes up the fight for Joshua, fighting back with Satan telling him to get off Joshua’s back. 

God will do the same for you. That’s divine power. 

© Fr. Jos Tharakan

Genesis 32: The Power Of Prayer

The Divine Supplication

The Power Of Prayer

A young man was sitting alone in the church. I thought he was crying, and so I went to him and asked, “are you alright?” He responded, “I am afraid I am going to lose my house. I haven’t been able to come up with the payment this month. I don’t find a way for the next month either. I lost my job and I am afraid. I am not alright.”

I let him talk. I listened to him for some time. We sat together in silence for some time. I did not have an answer to his dilemma. He is a good man who is faithful in life, to church, and in his prayer life. So, the only thing I needed to do was being with him in silence. I did not have a solution for him.

Then I remembered the prayer of Jacob and his fight with this unknown person in the middle of the night. He wrestled with this person, maybe an angel, all night. He asked for his name, but the angel did not give it to him. Jacob was not willing to let him go until he told Jacob his name. The story goes on to say that Jacob did not get an answer. But in the process, the angel broke his arm. Because he wrestled with God. He fought for a response from the man he was fighting. He was not ready to walk away.

The answer came as a complete change in his personhood, his name, future, life, and all that he had in life. God changed who he was as a person in response to his wrestling with God. 

Prayer has a way of making that happen to all who pray. I told this young man, maybe you have to keep wrestling with God for an answer. The answer God gives may not be with what you are expecting of him, and in the process, you might break a bone or two. But it is worth it because when God breaks the bones, he will mend them stronger than before. When he changes your name to something else, he will empower you to be that which he turned you into. He will not let you fail once he gives you a purpose unless you goof it up.

The widow of Zarepath challenged Elijah, in a similar fashion, when he was asked to bring life back into her son. Elijah ate the last bread she had. She was generous in giving him all she had and was left with nothing before the Lord opens the treasury of grace on her.

In that process, she lost her son. He got ill. Even though she gave everything she had to the prophet of God, God took her son. She was heartbroken and lost. When Elijah came around, she let him have it. She told him what he didn’t want to hear, but she was going to wrestle with the man of God for the life of her son. She was not going to back down from the demand of life back to her son. 1 Kings 17:7-24

Elijah was caught off guard with this kind of request. He asked her for her son, and she brings him to Elijah. Elijah cried out to the Lord for the life of the boy. God returned his life in the unrelenting prayer of Elijah. The fight was on and God gave in. He let his guards down so that God can enter into the boy. He had to let God send the spirit of life back into the boy. The wrestling with the prophet, and thus with God, paid off.

Asking for what you want, sharing with God what is going on, wrestling with issues that make no sense, and sometimes breaks your heart, are all part of prayer. For Jacob, it was, of course, a physical wrestle, but it was more than merely physical wrestling. It was the struggle of what was going on in his life. He knew how he stole the blessings, the birthright, and the slave labor at Laban’s house were all part of his wrestle. 

Did I do it right? Where did I fail? He asked himself. How can I do things differently? Where should I go from here? What should I do to get my life back in order? How can I do things to make a difference in the world? How can I care for my family and children? What is that you want of me, Lord? He had questions after questions to straighten his life.

A thousand questions rushed through his heart. Jacob did not know what the Lord wanted. But the man knew he could talk. Jacob could complain and make the day a day of mourning and beating his breast. It was a day of total awareness and acceptance of where he was, and how miserably he failed. But he was not going to fall into the trap of guilt or sadness, depression or fear to reject God’s mending grace.

Prayer is this anguish you feel in the presence of God. It is the confusion that you might experience when God is trying to talk to you. Give it a minute or two, a day or two, a week or two, let God work with you and figure this out together. He did that for Jacob, and he does the same with Elijah. Why not with us? 

Ask, and whatever you ask, I am going to give you, promises the Lord. (Matthew 21:22) It is the remembrance of this promise that constitutes a constant prayer. 

The man crucified on the right of Jesus did not live the best before they caught him for whatever he did. He was next to the one who did nothing to warrant what he was going through. But they both, and one on the left ended up with the same kind of punishment.

One person had no remorse, but resentful. The second person was remorseful and repentant. The third person in the middle, Jesus, was treated unjustly and did not deserve anything that he received. He was the victim in the story. He was pure but unfairly and unjustly treated. But he took it like a champion.

All three prayed one way or another. 

The one on the left prayed without knowing that he was in need of help. He needed awareness of himself. He was so blind to himself; he was crying inside, not externally, for help. The thief on the left was blind to his sins and thus blind to his need for mercy and forgiveness. 

The man on the right was crying for mercy. His request was for kindness and compassion. He was asking for a gesture of goodness towards him. He expected nothing other than a merciful glance that did not judge him. His desire was not for the kingdom, but a gentle look from someone without judgment. He knew he deserved the cross. But he did not realize he deserved heaven. In his plea, he was seeking love. He was looking for someone to understand, accept, and give hope.

The third man on the cross was Jesus. He was not asking for anything from anyone, except the Father the grace to forgive. Then he cries to God the Father to impart forgiveness. He was not ready to give up on his enemies. He was ready to fight the battle for the souls of those who failed to see God in them, around them, and on the cross.

On the cross, his prayer was not about getting him off the cross. His priority was to let those who did this to him know he leaves the world without ill will. The recipe for life, eternal life, was leaving the world without strings attached – un-forgiveness – to himself. He knew that means he had to let go, forgive. His prayer to the Father was to forgive, to let loose, and give up all those that will hold him down here on earth. 

What Jesus preached all his life is what he was living right there on the cross. When you live in him, when you live in the Father, you can ask for whatever you want, it will be given to you. (John 14:13) He said that to people before they nailed him to the cross. Now it is time, attaching himself to the Father, to ask for what he wanted, the forgiveness of the sins of humanity. His prayer was that he has fulfilled what he came to do. As promised, He aligned his life with the Father’s will. He pleaded with the Father to grant forgiveness to all humanity. Not just to those who are crucifying him at the time. 

Jesus’ prayer was for total forgiveness of all those who do not know what they are doing when they oppress the other. He asked for forgiveness on those who failed to see what they do to another; through abuse, anger, and tyranny. 

Jesus wrestled with the Father so that the Father will show forgiveness and mercy to the world he died for. He wrestled with the Father to let the man on the right enter into the kingdom forever. Jesus was not ready to let go of anyone clinging to him, even if it is at the last minute. Jesus wrestles and conquers. He wins and awards justice.

The best way for you to wrestle with God in prayer is to attach yourself to God. Like the vine that is attached to the sturdy trunk of the tree. Grow strong in Christ, and then we can ask for whatever we want. 

When we have this kind of attachment with God, the grounds will be shaken under us when we pray. When Peter and the Apostles prayed, that is what happened. The ground shook under their feet. Fear came upon the people. The spirit of God descended upon all those who were gathered around there. Acts 4:31

Wrestling prayer has the power to break the bonds, shake the lands, collapse the structures, and eventually free the people. When Paul and Silas prayed, everything came to pass, as I just said before. When Peter prayed, this is the same thing that happened. When Jesus prayed on the cross, the grounds shook and split the earth in two. Read Acts 16:25-28 to understand the power of prayer.

Prayer of supplication, the wresting prayer as I call it, is the secret weapon that we all carry in our backs. It is part of our making. Nobody needs to figure it out or learn. It is activated when we know we can enable them. There is a toll-free number in our hearts to call and activate God into our ring. God is ever-present, ready, and waiting for the call we make. 

When I think of supplication, this is what comes to my mind. 

It is a prayer of desperation.

It is an act of wrestling with God in mind and body.

It is a cry of fear, without letting loose.

It is a challenge to God on what He promised. 

It is going into the room alone with God!

It is sitting in silence all day long! 

It is the moment of helplessness for God to shake the waters!

Prayer is letting God be with you whenever you want. 

So I said to my friend, cry out, and God will hear your cry. Wrestle like Jacob. Let God break a bone or two. He knows how to heal it too. Moses did that, and so did Noah. Abraham cried out, and so did Elijah. The thief asked for mercy, and so did the woman with bleeding. The blind, the lame, the sick, and the lost, all came to Jesus asking for divine mercy. He asked for it without shame or fear. God granted it without reservation. He was broken in every way, and came back to full life like none other. He knows what it is to break and he knows what it is to come back to life.

My friend did just that and went home in peace. A few days later, he called me to say; he found a new job and a new pathway forward. He will continue to knock on the Lord’s door every day and promised; he shall not turn back. He will wrestle with God and see how God breaks his bones. Because he was sure, he will be given a new name if God breaks his bones.

So, if God breaks your bones, He won’t walk away without changing your future, your fortune, and favor on you.

© Fr. Jos Tharakan 2019

Genesis 31: Divine Fellowship

When people are in love, they talk a lot. They have no time to do anything else but talk, talk, and talk some more. Most of the time, when they talk, I am pretty sure they are just chattering away. Nothing of what they say is that serious, except the voice of their beloved. It doesn’t matter how much the other makes sense; it is still beautiful.

Every church I have been to, have a time of fellowship, a coffee hour, a time to catch up with life. Everyone knows each other, and then they want to talk about it what they know. Sharing with another what is going on is vital to building a relationship. Fellowship times do that. 

In the Episcopal church, once I was part of, we had three ‘worship services’ called Rite I, Rite II, and Rite III. The Rite III was the fellowship hour, as important as the Rite I and Rite II. Being with another person through life was as important as the other, if not more. 

As relationships mature, there may not be much talk but a calming presence. A silence envelops relationships. But this silence is not be deafening but restful. It softens emotions and feelings. Silence makes the presence of the other uplifting and encouraging.

One of the churches I pastored has a program called Neighbors Table. It is a program that provided food for the hungry on Saturdays. It did not matter what your financial status is; you are welcome to join at the meals and create a community with those sitting around you. There were many other churches in that community that provided a free meal for anyone who wanted it, but Neighbors Table was known for the fellowship of love. Neighbors’ Table provided an opportunity to share life as it happened rather than spend time praying, talking about God, and being churchy because it was in a church. People came not necessarily for food, but for company, conversation, and compassion. 

We all crave for attention. We all want someone to talk to. Just as much as we want someone to talk to us, we also want someone to listen to. It is a deep longing within that we may not recognize. A beautiful relationship is built up only by this reciprocal activity of talking and listening. Eating together, eating with, and sharing the table with another gives us a sense of security and sacredness. God becomes part of our daily life when we eat together and laugh together. So, fellowship can be any of these. 

Eating with another is fellowship.

Laughing with another is fellowship. 

Praying with another is fellowship. 

Suffering with another is fellowship.

Chilling out with another is fellowship.

Just being you with another is fellowship. 

God longs for these moments, and just as much as God does, we do too. We may not know it. But deep within, we long for God just like the deer that longs for water. The faster we recognize it, the better. The sooner we drink of the water, we won’t be dehydrated of God. 

When Abraham fell on his face when he met God, God promised him a life that was blessed. God and Abraham visited with each other and shared a future that was unknown to Abraham. God spoke, and Abraham listened. God made a covenant, promised a child, provided a nation, and a destiny greater than Abraham could have imagined. Because they came together to talk. (Genesis 17:3)

Moses went up the mountain to speak to God. God was waiting for him on top of the mountain. Then God told Moses the things the people of Israel had forgotten. He tells them how He bore them on eagles wings. God provided a bird’s eye view of his plan for His people. They were His treasure. He had a plan to make them priestly and holy. All of this secret plan of God was revealed to Moses because Moses spent a few days and nights alone with God on the mountain. (Exodus 19:3-6)

Looking at God straight is not a good idea, according to Moses. He did not come up with this line of deep awe for God, but God reportedly shared it with Moses. He didn’t know we would die if we looked at God’s face. (Exodus 19:20) This kind of information is what I am talking about when we talk with one another; we learn. We learn things we didn’t know. That happens with God as much as it happens with a man. So the people stood at a distance. (Exodus 20:21) They gave the privacy needed for two friends to talk, to share, and to warn those who were listening to them. 

We learn about the other by listening to the other. Not by imagining what we want to. We have to engage in conversation: two-way communication. The conversation is not a monologue. It is you and I, God and you, husband and wife, friend and friend, pastor and the flock, the director, and the directed. 

The fellowship is a two-way street

You talk, and I listen.

I talk, and you listen. 

God talks, and I listen. 

I talk, and God listens.

Sometimes in doing so, we have to climb the mountains and sometimes come down to the valley. The fellowship is a two-lane road with a narrow divider. Sometimes the divider is a thick concrete four-foot-wide flower bed, and at other times, it is a dotted yellow line in the middle. When it is well defined, it is hard to cross to the other side, and when it dotted line, we can go in and out of the other lane. Conversations require this kind of clarity and fluidity to make it into a beautiful relationship.

This is what the Lord God does when He tells Moses that people should not look at his face, lest they die; it is a hard and fast rule. That is what happens when he gives the ten commandments. It is a very clear direction without any room for much interpretation and crossing over. When it is with God that we are talking, there is no crossing over to interrupt of give our opinion about it. 

Jonah tried that and didn’t go too far with his interruption. He told the Lord that it is not a good idea not to punish the people of Nineveh. He was upset because the Lord didn’t actually follow through what they talked about, namely punish the sinners. He pouted and kept away from God. But the Lord gave him some shade from the scorching sun. But then the Lord made a little worm to eat the plant and put him out in the hot sun. Jonah was upset about what the Lord was doing to him, putting him out for a heat stroke! But the Lord made his point through it and got Jonah’s attention. Conversation with God helped. Jonah knew why wouldn’t God destroy the people and the animals in the kingdom. He cared for them. His desire was not to destroy them but to change their hearts and wrongful living. (Jonah 4: 5-7)

Conversation with God helps

But between men, we cross the dotted yellow line in the middle all the time. We interrupt, and we interject out ideas and thoughts into others. We argue and fight over things that sometimes are the same. If we listened carefully, maybe we could keep to our lanes and empower the other. 

I sometimes do not listen to what my wife says. After a long back and forth talk, I have, and she has realized that we talked the same thing. But from different viewpoints and many times from the same viewpoints. If we paid attention, to begin with, we wouldn’t have to waste so much of our time proving our point.

Here is something for us to think about. 

When God calls, we go

God invited Moses to the mountain to talk. (Exo: 19:20)

God invited Moses to a tent to talk to. (Lev 1:1)

God invited Aaron and Miriam to talk. (Num 12:8)

God invited Ezekiel into the valley to talk. (Eze: 3:22)

God invited the people near the mountain. (Exo 20:21)

God likes to talk to people face to face. He was not much interested in talking through signs just as much as directly. Meeting and talking was His way of communicating. He didn’t hide from those whom he talked to. 

He talked face to face with Abraham

He talked face to face with Moses. 

He talked face to face with Job in his tent. 

He makes a covenant with those whom he talks. 

He calls them His friends. 

What is beautiful about the relationship with God is it is real, personal, and present all the time. It is promising. God is a friend, and therefore he wants to talk to you. 

Divine fellowship is what we are all looking for in our lives. We long for someone to spend time with us and talk to us. 

When you go into a nursing home, that is what you will find. People are waiting there to talk to someone. 

When you visit an orphanage, you find children waiting to talk to you and be seen. 

When you genuinely love someone, that is what happens. They wait with a longing to see you and be in your space. 

Their voice, their heart, and their energy are in yours. You interact with their emotions, feelings, and experiences. That is what God is longing for. The Lord strolled in the garden of Eden, looking for Adam and Eve. God was looking for a friend to talk to. 

Be a friend to God. Don’t be a stranger.

Divine fellowship is worth pursuing, 

Genesis 29: The Divine Care

In India, parents arrange the marriages of their children. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, parents have the final say. But if you are a woman, not only parents have the final say, they are also obliged to give a dowry for their daughters. Many times that will be in gold and recently it has been in household items, appliances, cars, property, and the list goes on. What was this dowery for in reality? It is to secure the future of their girls in the new home they are going to. It was to give a head-start to the young couple, a gift to begin a new life, by the parents and the family of the girls. 

In the story of Leah and Rachel in the Old Testament, we do not see Laban willingly giving dowery to his prospective son-in-law but rather takes it from him. He makes him work for the love Jacob had towards Rachael. Eventually, Jacob did take more than just Rachael. He worked hard and then he took his share from Laban at the end. He took Leah, Rachael, The servants, the sheep and more. 

If you think there is no justice in how God works, here is one. Jacob stole the birthright of his brother and truth be told, his mother coerced him to do it.  But Jacob went along with the plan and took what was not his to take. Here is Jacob now in the same boat as a victim.  Jacob was enamored of the beauty of Rachel, Laban’s second daughter. He wanted to marry Rachel before Leah, his first daughter. He asked Laban, Rachael’s father, for her hand. He promised to give her in marriage but he had to work seven years for it. At the end of the seventh year, he not only did not give Rachael to Jacob but tricked him into taking Leah, his older daughter, in her place in the middle of the night under the cover of darkness. 

What goes around come around, you have heard. That’s what happens here. Jacob pays for his actions in a way by being cheated by the father of the woman he was in love with. He could not swallow because the whole deal with bitter, but he could also not spit it out because his heart was still with Rachael. In the midst of it all, the one who lost dignity, respect, and love was Leah, the older daughter. No one bothered to look into her feelings or fears. No-one bothered to worry about what her thoughts were. 

But then that doesn’t end there. Jacob had to work for his sweetheart for another seven more years. Rachael does not bear children. But Leah does. 

Leah suffered ridicule in this story. Leah is only an example of several people in the world who suffers such treatment. These experiences are painful and demeaning. They cry out to God and does God hear them? This is where the story takes a different turn. God does hear the cries of the abused and lost. 

Israelites suffered under the rule of Pharaoh. God took pity on them and looked upon them with love, which prompted them to be led out of Egypt. Exodus 2:25

Solomon was a great king and the wisest of all in the world. He had a huge responsibility as a king and a man who is guided by the Lord. In spite of the fact that he was a king and had everything he needed, he felt the need for divine care because of the burdens he was facing as a king. No one is exempt from that desire for God’s care. Regardless of our position in society, the love we experience in this world and our maturity level, we are still looking for divine care like Solomon and Leah was looking for. The people of Israel were looking for. 

Prophets seek such care from God. If not for a deep and personal love towards Elijah, he would not have had anything to eat in the wilderness. “The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi.” 1 Kings 17:6

Jezebel was looking for Elijah. There were people who were against him and wanted him dead. Elijah fled the land because he was being hunted after. He was depressed I am sure and afraid. He ran for his life and sought after God’s help. When he says, “O Lord, it’s enough. Take away my life,” it shows his utter desperation and fear of another human being. He fell asleep in his fear and depression. That’s when the angel wakes him up and says, “Get up and eat.” 1 Kings 19:7. 

We all want somebody to tell us to get up and eat. We are waiting for that moment when someone who loves us for real will tell us to get up, eat, play, pray, enjoy and celebrate. Our prayer is the same prayer as that of the Psalmist, “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” Psalm 40: 17

I always think of my children as the apple of my eye. If you have children you will be doing the same thing. After all whom we have given birth to is the flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. They share our dreams and hopes. We are deeply and intrinsically connected to our offsprings. Their pain and sorrow, their joy and happiness is ours as well. I believe God feels the same way. It is that what prompts God to care for us. We are God’s beloved for all times. There is not a time when that is not true. Through the darkest and the lightest moments of our lives, we are still the children of God. 

Moses felt that. He says, “God sustained me in the desert land, in a howling wilderness waste, he sustained me, cared for me, and guarded me as the apple of his eye.” Deuteronomy 32:10. 

It is from this experience of God Moses was able to invite the people to recognize their experiences of divine care. He did not allow them to forget how God cared for them. He told them, one by one, the journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom with clothes that were not worn out, or sandals that were still fine on their feet. Deuteronomy 29:5

To cast our anxiety on God is not easy. Because God is not present to us physically in the way we want Him to be. Even though Peter is trying to make us understand this principle by saying, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you,” we are unable to believe in such power in and around us. We, as human beings, want to see that God as tangible, present and near us, like those who love us here on earth. 

In the story of Rachel and Leah, we find God working with Leah by opening her womb in the midst of her humiliation. While Rachael could not initially bear children, Leah does. In those days having children were considered a blessing from the Lord and not to have children a curse. Leah prayed with fervor and pleaded with God without ceasing. God blessed her with a tangible presence of Himself in giving her children. 

Divine care is intertwined with human care. When we care for others, we care for ourselves. So caring for others is not meant to secretly secure care for oneself. It is an act of love done without expecting a reward. In Sanscrit there is a word called, Nishkam Karma (sanskrit IAST : niṣkāmakarma), It means a self-less or desireless action. It is an action performed without any other expectation other than the good of the person it is directed to. It is called the yogic path to liberation.

In the stories of the liberation of the people of Israel, this is what we find. When the pharaoh asked the midwives of the Israelite women to kill the boys born to the Jewish men, they secretly refused to do it. Simply because it was unethical, cruel and wrong. It was not for any other reason other than knowing the power of God in the midst of it all. They let the boys live. 

Moses survived the massacre because someone else other than his mother cared for him. The princess of Egypt was his savior. Doing the right thing is true devotion whether we define it that way or not. 

God cares even when humans don’t. We saw that when the ravens took care of Elijah. When Daniel was saved out of the mouth of the Lion. When three young men were saved in the middle of the fire in the book of Daniel. 

We are all in need of someone to help us get through rejection and abuse. Leah was treated poorly by her own father. But at the time that is how the world worked. That is not an excuse for anyone at any time not to respect another person. But God did not remain silent through it all. He showed who is in charge when the blessing was bestowed on her after opening her womb. 

Experiencing God’s love and care is what transforms us in the end. 

© 2019 Fr. Jos Tharakan

Genesis 26: God Is Strolling With Us

“I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.” Genesis 26:24

Haven’t you had the experience of someone you love standing near you, but you didn’t know about it.? It’s a strange feeling people get that someone is near them and they turn around and find that person smiling at them. In the early chapters of Genesis, one of the things we see is this very thing that God walks near them as a person who loves them. But they didn’t know. We find it over and over with different characters in the Bible. Like in Genesis 3: 8, you will read that Adam and Eve heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze. God was in their space. God was finding their garden a place to relax and build a friendship.

In one of the stories we find when Hagar, Abraham’s servant girl, was in the wilderness, she was afraid. God was with her, but she did not know it. She was not just scared for herself, but much more for her little boy, Ishmael. But the scripture says, “God was on the boy’s side as he grew up.” He was not left alone for a second. When Israel, Jacob, was dying, this was one of the blessings he gave to Joseph, his son that “may God be with you and give you a safe passage.” Genesis. 48 21. God was with Ishmael just as much as He was with Jacob.

Isaac had every reason to be afraid of the new people in the new land he ended up in. He also knows the stories of his father and his struggle in life. I want to take you to the emotions of Isaac as he meets Abimelech, most likely one of the Egyptian officials. Isaac lies to him just like his father did. While Isaac was afraid of all the antagonism he might experience from the ruler of the land, Abimelech, the ruler, knew that God was on Isaac’s side. That’s why he says, “We’ve realized that God is on your side.” Abimelech was not ready to fight with the one whose friend was God.

Isaac eventually believed in the promise that God will stick with him. Because the Lord had promised that, “I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this very ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.”

This is what happens to all those who are following the promptings of God within them. God walks with them. It’s not just God is watching over them. But God walks with them and makes them part of his evening stroll as it was in the story of Adan and Eve. God is looking for a friend in you.

It is hard for us to fathom the idea that God, the supreme being, will walk with us and make us His friend. Because we do not deserve it, we think, and we do not know for sure if God does walk with people! That’s because we haven’t seen a physical being called God in anyone or anything. We are like Isaac and the rest of the Biblical people with whom God walked without fail, regardless of their fear or lack of faith.

Isaac went through the same. Abraham, his father, Patriarchs and saints, went through the same. It is in the destiny of man to have God with them. But man fear God won’t be.  The Lord continues to promise  Isaac and everyone who believes in him that, “I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.”

Don’t fear a thing, for that’s the biggest folly of humankind, namely, to be afraid of everything that does not make sense or is different. In the book of Leviticus, we find another assurance that God will stroll through your streets. Leviticus 26: 12. Numerous occasions, God promises in the Bible that he doesn’t want anyone to defile the places he lives and strolls, namely, the temples, the churches, the homes, and the hearts of people. “Don’t desecrate the land in which you live. I live here too—I, God, live in the same neighborhood with the People of Israel.” Numbers 35:34

Genesis 26 tells us that God will be with us through thick and thin, over and over. Even though the story may have different themes, the overarching idea of the chapter is that we are walking along with God. God is happy that we are his company. He will do everything to keep us safe. Trust him like Hagar, Isaac, Jacob and even Abimelech.

Genesis 23: The Story of a Soulmate

Here is the story of a soulmate, Sarah, who went through all the high and low points in the life of Abraham, her spouse. Imagine the anxiety, fear, doubt, and anger Sarah must have had in wandering around in the wilderness with Abraham’s visions and experiences of God. Any person, for that reason, will think twice before embarking on a journey without a defined destination or clarity of where they are going.

Now, of course, we know the ancient people were nomadic in nature and so they are attuned to such a lifestyle. We might say, it must not have been that hard as far as the journey is concerned but when it came to doing things as God commanded him to do; it must not have been easy. Then when it came to sacrificing the only child she must have been just crazy, I would think. If I put that into words it will be something like this. “Let us fold the tent man, you are nuts.” Instead, she trusted him.

If you remember, Sarah offered her maid to Abraham and he had another son, Ishmael. There is all the reason for her not to go along with Abraham’s ideas but in the end, she follows him wherever he goes. She supports him in all the escapades of life and becomes the helper God intended her to be. She was not always quiet but in the end Sarah supported Abraham in all things, even letting go of her only son, Isaac.

Nothing comes free, Abraham knew this fully well. He remembered all the sacrifices Sarah made for him and for the family. That’s why in this chapter we see Abraham is not falling for the insincere and quick answer of the Hittite, Ephron. Abraham politely acknowledged Ephron’s offer, but created a prudent boundary by paying for the land he wanted. He also establishes a deep awareness that the place he is buying is a sacred place, for that is where Sarah, his soul-mate, is going to be buried.

For the sake of his soul-mate he spares nothing. He is willing to pay whatever it takes to respect, love, and honor the spouse who journeyed with him. In scripture you will find that Sarah is the only woman whose age, death, and burial are mentioned in such detail. She is not only the mother of the Jewish people, but also of people whose faith is challenged daily by those who are close to them. Regardless of religious affiliation, Sarah represents what it takes to give a person grace, to have courage, to be understanding, and how to support a spouse.

Solution #23: Practicing faith is not easy but if we are attuned to God it will always be present to us through the people we love most us. Those that are near to us will show us the way forward even when we are not sure. When there is mutual trust between spouses even the hardest of choices become a little easier. A reciprocal love is the only way to respond to such trust. Nothing should be spared when it comes to showing that kind of commitment and love. Abraham proves he is the man for Sarah and he will do whatever it takes to prove it. When it came to showing his love of his spouse, and her loss, he did not shy away from showing his emotions. The great patriarch becomes greater when he cries his heart out.

Genesis 22: Keys to Unlock Faith!

The story of Abraham and Isaac always puzzled me. As I see it, God is testing Abraham and asking him to do something anyone in their right mind won’t do. I have a hard time understanding why God, the father, the loving and ever-living being, would put Abraham through such a test? 

It took years for me to understand a little about this story. I did not understand the depth of a father’s love until I had my own children. At every turn of life, I think of them and worry about them. I look for signs that might lead my children to the right or to the left. I pray for their safety, security, and happiness. I long for them to be settled and have a life that is full and beautiful. 

It’s only in this context I can think of Abraham and Isaac. Every time this little boy called daddy, Abraham’s heart must have leaped for joy. Because he is not simply a child among the several other Abraham had. He was the only one and Abraham was going to spare nothing to keep him safe. 

Abraham knew God wouldn’t put him through what was asked. Nevertheless, he was terrified of the thought of what all this means. Everything about God that he had built over the years is now called to question. It is God who blessed him with a child and foretold all that is awaiting this child and the future of Israel. When we read this story, it is heart-wrenching to say the least, because the one who was supposed to protect him and his child is now the one asking for his life. 

One thing I have learned through it all is this. When God puts us through rough days like Abraham had to go through, it is never without a plan to take us out of them. No matter how hard and crazy our experiences might be, in the end, there will always be a contingency plan for God. To trust God to that point is hard because we are all limited by the knowledge of our future. I do this every day when it comes to my children. They do not see the future as much as I see and I am worried, scared and excited for them even when they nothing of it. I have a contingency plan every time they are out of my sight. 

Godly fear, in other words, the constant awarenesses that God has your back even when it is all dark around you, is key to unlock faith. Abraham grew into that faith eventually. It was not quick or easy, but constant building up of a relationship. When he, Abraham, could have been killed at the court of Abimelech, God came to his rescue. In the wilderness, in his loneliness, in his fear and hopelessness, God was present. Abraham came to trust God to do what is best for him in the end. A trust that is a complete surrender to God is hard to come by. Remembering God’s hand in every step of his life helped him get there and served him well. Whether it is in the wilderness or on the mountain, Abraham believed in what was impossible. Because God made the impossible possible in every moment of his life. 

Solution #22: The story of Abraham is the story of complete surrender, a story of growing into that surrender, a moment of letting go of the control of life into the hands of God. When all is done, God gave back all that was surrendered. This, in fact, is the gist of the whole Bible in different stories, anecdotes, and examples. Letting God into life’s moments, as Abraham did, might bring us peace and prosperity just as we see in two great men, Isaac and Abraham. 

 

Genesis 21: Delayed Blessings

Now in here, we are back to some joyful times. In Genesis 21 we see the birth of Isaac, Sarah’s joy. (1-8) But then there is the rivalry of Isaac and Ishmael. (9-13) This leads to the ejection of Hagar and Ishmael, and they are comforted by an angel in the wilderness. (14-21). We read further Abimelech’s covenant with Abraham. (22-34). 

In Romans 8:19 we read that the “whole creation waits with eager longing.” We live in an instant gratification society. No matter young or old, everyone wants and have information at their fingertips. The word Google was the name of a company some years ago, but now it is a verb we all use. Google it! we say. Because the answer is right at your fingertip. 

Our patience level these days for that simple reason is much lower than of our ancestors. We can not wait for things any longer. The deep longing we are talking about in the first paragraph is not the trait of modern society. If you do not answer your text or email right away, then there are hard feelings, fear of rejection, fight and the rest of the drama that follows. 

With this backdrop of the modern world, let us look at Genesis 21 that takes us to the reality of how God works things out. Coping with God’s ways of doing things is just the opposite of the ways of the modern world. Everything, if it is left to God, will be a delayed blessing. Nothing is fast or furious for God. This is the message of this chapter. Sarah had to wait for a long time even after a child was promised to get the child. She waited until she got pretty old to conceive. She had to wonder if God was in the story at all. But she waited through her doubts. 

Look at Abraham. He was not a spring chicken when his firstborn came about. He was 100 years old. If any of us can actually think straight at 100, I would call it a blessing beyond my imagination. I have met two people who made it to 101 and seemed like they carried some sense in them to that age. As for me, forget it, that I won’t have much sense left by then. So, it was a delayed blessing for Abraham just as much as it was for Sarah. It was a blessing in when it came in God’s own timing. 

See how Hagar and Ishmael were treated. They were thrown out of their security and into the wilderness. But God was waiting for them in the wilderness. For Hagar to know God and experience God’s care, she needed to reach the wilderness. In the wilderness, Hagar had to move away from her own son, and limited vision, to see God’s hand at work with her child. God opens the spring of water and life for them once Hagar gave everything into the hands of God. God’s blessings may be delayed and nerve-wracking, but it always comes when needed. 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. (Luke 2: 25) Simeon waited for a long time for the right time so that he could see Jesus brought into the temple. We see Jesus doing the same when he waits for the right time to raise Lazarus from the dead. He didn’t rush to raise him, instead waited for God’s time.  Jesus asks His disciples to do the same. “Wait for the helper,” Jesus says, “I will send you the Holy Spirit.” Delayed blessings are real and I believe that’s how God does things. He rushes not! 

So, in short, Genesis 21 speaks volumes about waiting for the delayed blessings. Delayed blessings of God in our lives is proof that God is with us. If you doubted whether God was ever with you in anything you are going through, remember Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, Ishmael, the disciples, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the list goes on and on. You are on the right track when things are not right in front of you when you want it. God works with infinite things and we work with finite things. It is in my DNA to die, therefore a limited vision and it is in God’s DNA to live and therefore beyond the small things. Therefore, delayed blessings are God’s way of guarding your back!

Genesis 20: Sojourners in a foreign land

Genesis 20 gives us a three-part story. It tells us about the journey of Abraham and his stay at Gerar, where Sarah is taken by the king, Abimelech. (1-8) When Abimelech found out the truth of Abraham and Sarah’s relationship, he rebukes Abraham for what he did to him and to his nation. Abimelech restores Sarah to Abraham and then blesses him with a place to settle. (14-18)

The Beautiful Human Condition

Fear overtakes all people at some point in their life, no matter who they are. We, humans, are flawed in one way or another but it is in this flawed nature that God has taken refuge. God found the human condition worth inhabiting. That is amazing to me! Thus the incarnation. 

The Backstory Of God’s Chosen

When Abraham and Sarah landed in Egypt looking for a place to settle, they were greeted by the men of Pharaoh. In those days, the king could take anyone as his slave, his spouse, his concubine or whatever else the king wanted. If someone stood against such a wish, they were killed and removed. Therefore, the fear Abraham had was real and his fear lead him to do what he did. He lied. He flat out lied about his relationship with Sarah to keep himself safe. He lied to Pharaoh telling him that Sarah was his sister. 

Sarah was beautiful and the king was smitten by it.  He didn’t have to kill the man who accompanied Sarah if he was only her brother and not her husband. In the mind of the king, everything was in order and there was no need for violence because she was available.

The Power Of Stepping Back

Abimelech finds out the truth about Abraham and Sarah and now he was terrified. He knew he stepped on Godly toes here. It was time to pull back and set the record straight. He chickened out of his whole plan simply because his adversary was greater and better than himself. So he withdraws and returns Sarah to Abraham, her husband. 

The Perverse State Of Mind

See how fear plays out in different ways? Abraham’s fear led him to lie. The fear Sarah had, led her to the bedchamber. The fear of God’s punishment forced Abimelech to change his mind. Human imperfection in its fullness is played out within this whole story. As Job would say, “Though I am innocent, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.” Job 9:20. 

I had to look up the definition of the word “perverse” and found this. Perverse means “showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable.” I did not need any more to explain the desire of Pharaoh or Abraham or Sarah or me or you. The world is in a state of perverseness much of the time. We are led by our human imperfection to avoid the consequences of our actions and desires. 

Overcome Perverseness

I felt sorry for Abimelech, Sarah, and Abraham. The story in Genesis 20 told me of my own need to act unreasonably out of fear. I am sure if I lived in those days and had a king, I might do the same to protect my wife and me. But then I don’t live in such times. I hope not. But I can see how fear can lead us to such behaviors in difficult times. Not to claim the person you love and stand up for them, regardless of what happens, is a problem in the world we live in today. Not claiming and respecting the other as God’s child, is an ongoing problem. 

The Divine Law: Respect

Solution # 20: God challenges Abimelech to be disrespectful and deal with the consequences. But Abimelech doesn’t take the bate. Rather, he complies with divine law, namely to respect. Abraham and Sarah in the foreign land by protecting them and giving them a place of their own.  God was with the stranger and his beautiful wife. Even a king can learn quickly so he changed his ways when he knew God was with them all, not just the stranger but with the king himself. God protected him from sinning against his own people just as much as God protected the stranger in the land. We all need to invite God into the midst of our confusion and God will protect us all and even open the doors for better solutions in our lives. We are all sojourners in a foreign land.