Phone: 417-881-3073

2645 E. Southern Hills Blvd | Springfield | MO 65804 

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 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 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. 

Genesis 19: Lead us from blindness to light!

There are two major stories contained in this chapter which we have heard many times over. First there is the story of The Destruction of Sodom and The Deliverance of Lot. (1-29) and secondly, The Sin and Disgrace of Lot. (30-38)

This chapter of Genesis is more known in the world for two words – Sodom and Gomorrah. The destruction of these two cities has historically been attributed to the lifestyle of the people of these locations. I do not want to disagree with the findings of other writers with regards to lifestyle but in my view, the lifestyle we are talking about here is not about homosexuality among the people of Sodom and Gomorrah as many preachers have said but rather it is about the inner blindness to see other people with dignity and respect. 

Look at the different aspects of the story. See how the people of Sodom treated Lot, the Angels, and the daughters of Lot. Everything of this chapter speaks volumes of one’s attitude towards people around them. 

For the people of Sodom, Lot was nothing but a foreigner without rights. He was belittled for being a man without the right to welcome guests into his own home or even to be a man with dignity. They questioned his moral judgment. They disregarded his pleas. They failed to believe his story and his request not to harm his own guests. 

The people of the town were blind to the fact that these three men they didn’t know, the angels, were there for their pleasure. They made a mistake in assuming who the strangers were when they actually had no clue about the identity of their guests. They were blinded by their own self-grandeur. The people Sodom failed to welcome God’s angels. 

We find the blindness of Lot’s wife to see the hand of God in everything that happened to them. Her curiosity got the better of her. Her fear got the better of her. Her need to control the outcome got her in trouble. She became a pillar of salt that had lost its saltiness. She became an immovable pillar in the middle of destruction and uncertainty. 

The story doesn’t end there. The daughters of Lot continue the path of the blindness of their parents. When Lot was given a chance to choose, if you remember from the past, he chose for his own betterment and lost everything. When his wife was given a choice, she chose a path to her own destruction. When the daughters had a choice to make, they were blinded by their fear and lost respect for their father.

When we are blinded by our limited vision of life, we make mistakes too. When we are afraid, we follow the wrong path. We are caught in the middle of destruction and the future. We are blinded by our prejudices, our fears, and our self-grandeur. We can become like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, not because of sexual orientation, but pure self-righteousness and total spiritual blindness. We may become the same people who were destroyed by fire because we fail to respect the dignity of people we may or may not even know. Even though we are presented with daily invitations to respect the dignity of every human being, we are often blinded by our fear. 

Solution #19: When one group of people attacks another, that nation falls into a place of spiritual blindness. When a person destroys another for any reason, a seed of self-destruction is planted in him or her. Spiritual blindness leads the people of this chapter to vile acts. It is not sexual acts that destroy another but the lack of respect for human dignity that leads to vile acts of any kind, sexual or asexual. It will do well for us to remember that where there is love, there is kindness, compassion, self-control, forgiveness, and mercy.

Genesis 18: Why Count The Blessings In The Evenings!

In Genesis 18 we find several interesting stories, starting with the appearance of the Lord to Abraham. This is followed by the unbelief that is reproved by the Lord. God reveals what is awaiting in the future for Sodom and Gomorrah and how Abraham will plead for the people of Sodom. 

In my opinion, most people are hard-working. Everyday cares and worries of life keep us all awake at night but in the end, everyone falls asleep through it all. Abraham and Sara had their share of anxieties and worries of life, but in those restless nights, before they fell asleep, they counted the stars and trusted that, somehow, God will make it right for them. God had promised them uncountable blessings in the future. 

Immersed in these thoughts, Abraham waited for God to act. Everything that happened in his life, he believed, had the hand of God behind it. Anything that happened that was out of the ordinary, since he paid attention to the extraordinary experiences and encounters, made him open to God’s intervention in life. He was not so calloused to life that he ignored the unexplainable experiences. He was ready to meet God whenever and wherever God appeared.

So when these three men in the story of Genesis 18 showed up at the door, Abraham didn’t wait for a second to greet them, welcome them, offer them a home, give them food or whatever. He was prepared for an encounter with God. God met him at his front door and not anywhere else.

Whatever happened after that did not matter. He did not lose focus on God, His kindness and how He kept His word. Even when he heard the unthinkable, Abraham believed it like a child. Sara was much more of the adult in the story, never taking anything at face value and being disappointed for the rest of her life for trusting what these men said. She knew she was old and could not have a son at her age. She chuckled and she doubted the possibility, just like you and me. 

But the lesson here is much more than the doubt of Sara or the destruction of Sodom. It is about the openness of Abraham to believe in the impossible. He had to prepare himself for the impossible without knowing what it would be. We now know that greater things were in the future for Abraham. He was prepared beforehand because he was prepared for the impossible in the hands of God. He maintained a childlike and fearless faith. 

Yes, some of us may want to focus on the Sodom story. If we are focusing on the Sodom story, then let it be on the story of the persistence of Abraham to find good even when God doesn’t seem to find good. He was willing to ask God to walk him through the possibility of not having a good person in town. He bargains for justice. He calls on God for mercy. He wants to find goodness even when it was not possible. He becomes a friend of God by challenging God to show him the reason for the destruction of a people. He wanted to see through the eyes of God and see God through the eyes of the people. This is how Abraham becomes a friend of God. God finds the best in the worst situations in life and wants us to see it too, so that we can see the impossible things through the eyes of God. 

Solution #18

Even when everyday life seems impossible, count the blessings in the evenings. Even when what is ahead is unthinkable, trust in the potential God has in them. Even when faced with people and situations that demands utter fear, do what is right and just. When prophet Micah says, “do justice, show mercy and walk humbly before God”, he is giving us a simple way to practice faith, not just saying to have faith. Lift your head and see that God is at your front door. Invite God in, dine with God, believe in God and become a friend of God by seeing the possibility of goodness in the midst of the impossible situations or people. 

Genesis 17: The Two Way Street Of Faith!

In the last chapter we learned, Abram and Sarai tried to help God to fulfill His promise to them and that’s why we have Ishmael in the story. We talked about this last week as to how Sarai got a little impatient and helped Abram to help God. Well, it eventually only caused a problem between Sarai and Abram. Jealousy, fear, anger and all kinds of other emotions played out in Hagar running away.

This whole drama must have been exhausting and scary for all parties involved, Sarai feeling down, Abram feeling guilty, Hagar feeling rejected and scared. The Poor child, Ishmael, in the midst of it all became homeless.

God understood the fears and worries of all involved. Therefore God does what was the right thing to do with Hagar, Abram, and Sarai. He makes a covenant with Abram and not just Abram, as we listen more we see him making this covenant between God and Abram and then his children and children’s children, to generations to come. God promises justice for generations to come and forever.

God’s Covenant with Abram was not without anything in return from Abram. What was required of Abram was his obedience. Abram’s obedience was important in the story and required. But in my opinion, all God wanted was the love from his children including Abram. Obedience becomes easier when it is love that is expressed in obedience.

God in a way maybe a little needy. I know many people don’t like needy people. But then that’s what we all are. We are all needy for various reasons, but more when it comes to love. It proves the fact that we are, for sure, children of God who is needy and wants our love. For God will and have gone to great length to break the natural law to get Sarai pregnant. God, of course, can do whatever but He went to great length to make sure his promise and covenant with Abram are kept. All that he asks in return is that Abram and his children and children’s children love him and give God the first place.

I believe many times God loses patience with people in the Old Testament when they don’t love him and give him the first place. He had already told them that plain and clear, He wants to be the only God they should love, worship and live for. It is not that God did not make it clear. He did. But then being me, I said to myself, what kind of insecure God is that? But then senes came to me. I think the whole world runs on that fuel of wanting to be loved.

According to Karl Barth, a theologian “God defined: ‘The One Who Loves.” So, if we want to be like God, there is only one choice, become the one who loves like God. The fallen angels did not have that grace. They fell from grace because it was the power that they were seeking. Well, I am sure love has this reciprocal requirement that to experience real love you have to give love, love in return. If you don’t give love, you won’t experience love. That’s when all the problems begin. Love is never a one-way street. It goes both ways and that’s all that the Lord is asking to Abram and Sarai. It is not an abstract request God makes here. He names people to be loved. God The Almighty, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Ishmael, Hagar. It is particular, personal and direct.

So this chapter is much more than the story of Abram and Sarai and the covenant. It is setting in stone how that covenant is kept namely obedience in love for God. Stories after stories say that God did keep his promises.

Solution #17

God demands love because God gives love. Love is only experiential when we give it and not simply take it. Many in the world take love but forget to give it. The fabric of faith and family fails when love is not returned but only taken.

Genesis 16: Faith Is Born In Human Chaos!

For all my life I have heard that Abram is the father of faith. I know that’s because of what he did when he was asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. It is a great example of trust in God. I have said earlier that I don’t have that kind of faith. I wish I did.

However, when I reflected further, I wondered what happened to Abram and Sarai? God had promised them that He will multiply them and make them a great nation. His descendants will be like the stars in the sky. As smart and intelligent people, to know Sarai in her old age could get pregnant, was hard to believe. But then, why shouldn’t they trust God?

I believe they trusted God to do his part and keep His promise. As the days passed by, they must have been totally confused and afraid. As much as they wanted to trust God to keep the promise, they were not getting any younger to wait forever. Life was passing by and their strength to deal with life situations was diminishing.

I can only imagine the fear, sadness, humiliation and all the rest of the feelings Sarai must have gone through when she offered her servant girl to her husband. What was that for? Was it to help God to fulfill the promise? It was fear that things may not happen if they waited too long. Then there is the fear that they may not be able to conceive a child in their old age. All kinds of stressful moments crept in and made life total chaos, I am sure.

I always wondered if trusting in God is easy? I believe it might take us through a period of chaos especially if we try to help God? Can our idea of God’s plan lead us to do things that are crazy sometimes? Can God actually do things as God has promised, at least as we believe God has promised us in our prayer, without our help?

When I reflected more on these things I found the faith of Sarai and Abram was short just as much as ours. Genuine faith in God is prone to fail when we go through the chaos. Living in faith is living in chaos. Even when everything else seems to go against whatever we believe we can develop our trust in God. Chaos in life is ripe enough to give birth to the true faith.  

Abram and Sarai were going through the temptation to help God figure things out, without waiting patiently for God to do things. God’s timing sometimes is hard to understand and sometimes completely not in sync with the human clock. Our clock is limited because we only have a few years to live and we measure everything accordingly, but God’s clock infinite. There is not a sure way of explaining what God has in mind and the timing of it. Trusting God is not easy for anyone just as it was not the case for the father and mother of faith, Abram and Sarai.

But God can still act and God can still come through. The human chaos in this stressful situation was not the end of it all for God’s friend. It was made into a new beginning again.

Solution #16

Faith cannot be packaged easily in a neat little box. It lives through the chaos of life and many times faith is emboldened because of chaos. We are all better for the chaos of life because it helps us to live humbly. It makes us people who are real and down to earth. Of course, that goes only for those who are willing to accept that they have chaos in their lives. It is comforting to know the father and the mother of faith, Abram and Sarai, had enough chaos in their lives to strengthen their resolve to listen to God regardless of them.