Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Peace in the Middle East- Will it ever Come/5

Hatred and Bitterness bring division. Because of the animosity that developed between Sarah and Hagar division becomes inevitable. Hagar and Ishmael leave and Ishmael becomes the father of a nation of people. God has chosen Isaac, Abraham's son by Sarah, to be the Covenant Heir.
Over a period of time Isaac will marry. Rebekah his wife, will deliver two sons who will be at odds with each other.

Esau will become a man of the field and Isaacs' favorite. Jacob will is the apple of his mother's eye. The two brothers will do foolish and deceptive things. Esau will sell his birthright to Jacob for some bean soup. Jacob will deceive his father into bestowing the posterity and prosperity blessing upon him and not the rightful brother.

Esau leaves with his heart filled with hatred towards his father and brother. Going against his father's specific commands he marries the daughter of Ishmael. From the marriage of Esau the people known as the Edomites spring forth. Esau lives to the east of Isaac and Jacob, in the land of the Arabian princes.

Before exploring the history of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and their eventual conquest of Canaan a point must be enforced. That single point is the Covenant Agreement between God and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The passion and dedication of the Jewish people is directly tied to their absolute conviction that the Lord God Jehovah fulfilled his promise and covenant in giving them the land as He promised.

Over hundreds of years and countless conflicts God has been true to His word. When the Jewish people rebelled against God he corrected them and brought them back to their land. The real debate for many of us about God. Now let's be realistic. In todays world it is a very dangerous thing to say, God does not act that way, God would never do that, or we're all trying to get to heaven.
We are never to cross the offensive line by stating a Biblical truth that contradicts what certain segments of society believe.

A case in point. It would be a dangerous thing for me to walk around in Dearborn carrying a sign that said, "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not the god of the Islamic Fundamentalist." I am using that as an illustrative point. The Bible does stand against much of the religious teaching in the world today.

The very survival of the Jewish people is a testament to the faithfulness of, The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The next post will be about the Jewish people entering the Promised Land and the people they fight against.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Peace in the Middle East- Will it Ever Come/4

Hatred can be a killer. Picking up with the split of Jacob and Esau hatred begins to brew. Not only did Esau give up his birthright for some soup, now he is placed beneath his younger brother in everything that pertains to family. He will not become a patriarch, he will not inherit the wealth and prestige from his father. Filled with bitterness and hatred he heads to the land of the Ishmaelite's.

Rebekah hears of the hatred her son has for his brother. She calls Jacob to her and plans on sending him away. Isaac admonishes Jacob to never take a Canaanite woman as a wife. Esau hears the fathers admonition and in order to get back at his father he goes and takes the daughter of Ishmael as his wife. The scripture doesn't give us much light on the behind the scenes conversations between Ishmael and Esau.

Remember Ishmael was rejected by Abraham and Sarah. God promised Hagar, Ishmaels's mother, that Ismael would be the father of a great nation and that twelve princes would come from him. Now we find Esau and Ishmael living in the land that would become known as the Arabian Peninsula.

In the middle of this family dysfunction God appears to Jacob. During the night, while Jacob is asleep, God appears to him in a dream. A ladder, or staircase, descends from heaven and angelic creatures go back and forth from heaven and earth. At the top of the staircase Jacob hears the voice of God. The Lord repeats, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give to you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendant will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the east, to the north, and to the south. All peoples on the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring."

After a period of time we find the marriage of Jacob to Leah and Rachel. Jacob worked for Laban for fourteen years in order to marry Leah and Rachel. He worked six additional years to gain ownership of the flocks he had been tending. Fearing Laban, Jacob departed in the night with his wives and possessions.

Jacob has twelve sons by his two wives and their handmaidens. In time Jacob prepares to meet Esau, his brother. He is afraid  that Esau is still filled with hatred so he plans a meeting strategy. Jacob will send multiple gifts to Esau and each party will tell Esau that Jacob is coming behind them. He spends the night by himself and has a wrestling match with an angel. The angel reminds Jacob of the blessing God has for him and Jacob insists on another blessing. The name of Jacob is changed to, Israel.

Genesis 33- The meeting with Esau goes better than Jacob had even wished. The two brother embrace and weep. Jacob feared for his life for years and Esau dealt with his hatred for years as well. Jacob needed to be reminded by God that his life was in God's hands and that there was a plan that had been put into place and that man was not going to thwart the plan.

God instructs Jacob to return to Bethel and again the covenant is reinforced. In  this setting, Genesis 35, the narrative is a bit different. And God said to him, "I am God Almighty, be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you."

Comments- God is using very imperfect people for His purposes. Abraham disgraced Sarah. Isaac disgraced Rachel and the dysfunction flourished. Deception and deceit seemed to be the norm in the relationships. But still, God chose Abraham to be the father of many nations and that the entire world would be blessed on account of him. Time and time again God reminds and reinforces the truth of the covenant He first made with Abraham. The covenant relationship centered on the Jews worshipping only Jehovah and Jehovah blessing them with posterity and property.

We must decide whether or not we believe in the God of the Old Testament and his plan for the people of Israel.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Middle East- Will Peace Ever Come/3

Abraham and Isaac are inextricably linked to every thing that happens in the middle east. One might think that with the birth of Isaac Abraham's life of faith would rest in the reward of his son. It was not to happen. The Lord promised Abraham that the entire world would be blessed through his son, Isaac. The Lord needed to find out from Abraham just how strong his faith was. So, waiting for many years for the birth of his son was not the end of Abraham's growth in faith.

Genesis 22 gives us the story of Abraham's testing in the command of God in regards to Isaac. God commands Abraham to take Isaac up to a mountain and offer him there as a sacrifice. Abraham complies and walks to the mountain with Isaac at his side. At one point in the walk up the mountain Isaac asks his dad about the animal to be sacrificed and Abraham tells his son that God will provide a lamb.

The sacrificial altar is made complete and Abraham binds his son. The writer, my opinion, cheats us in the narrative. The matter of fact sequence of events does nothing to paint the picture of pain and torment that must be passing between father and son. Picture the scene with me as Abraham raises the flint knife over his head to plunge it into his son. In his soul he must have passed the point of no-return. Isaac was going to die.

In a split second God himself calls to Abraham from heaven. His words set Isaac free and Abraham finds a ram caught in a thicket. Abraham's obedience to the voice of God brings another reassurance of the Divine Covenant between God and Abraham. The truth of Abraham's posterity and property inheritance is given again. This point in the covenant relationship between God and Abraham is the one that Israel rests upon.

As time passes Abraham buries his wife Sarah. He has other wives who bear him children. As Isaac matures Abraham gives his concubines and his children, by them, gifts and sends them out to the east. Abraham sends his servant to find Isaac a wife and brings back Rebekah. Abraham's tasks on earth are completed and he dies at an old age. His children occupy the land from the Sinai to the plains to the east.

God answers the prayers of Isaac and Rebekah becomes pregnant. Her pregnancy is a sign of things to come. The scripture describes her unborn as, jostling within her. She prays and God tells her that her two sons are going to be two nations and that the older son will serve the younger. That declaration from God is the opposite of the culture and Rebekah must understand what the implications are.

Rebekah delivers two sons, Esau and Jacob. During the delivery Esau enters the world first with Jacob holding onto his heel. Esau grew to be a rugged individual who enjoyed hunting and bringing game to his father. Jacob was a quiet man who stayed near the tents. Rebekah favored Jacob and Isaac favored Esau. Trouble is brewing as Esau comes in from hunting and is hungry. He sells his birthright to Jacob for red stew.

Such a simple act will lead to more deception and two brothers will become enemies. Isaac was old and his vision was failing. Desiring some wild game from the hand of his son, Esau, he sent for him. He told him to go and get some meat and prepare him a savory dish and that he would pass his blessing to him. Rebekah heard the conversation and while Esau was out hunting she planned to deceive her husband.

As Rebekah had planned, Jacob disguised himself to appear as Esau. He put goat skins on his hands and neck, his brother was a rather hairy guy. Jacob deceives his father Isaac with meat. Isaac passes the patriarchal blessing to Jacob. Jacob is now the sole heir of the blessing of property and rule. When Esau returns he learns of the deception and pledges to kill his brother.

Esau begs his father for his blessing but Isaac is unable to give his son what he has already given away. Isaac tells Esau that he must serve his younger brother and Esau heads to the East.

I will post the next piece on Thursday.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Middle East- Will Peace ever Come/2

The land of Iraq is of great historical significance in understanding the Old Testament and the story of the Jewish nation. Abraham followed the impress of God and walked to the land of Canaan, a journey of about 1500 miles.

God promises Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation and his seed would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sands on the seashore. As he is childless he brings his condition before God and is assured that he would have children of his own. Abraham's wife, Sarah, is barren and convinces Abraham to have a child by her handmaiden, Hagar.

Abraham does not seek God's guidance in regards to Hager and he takes her as his wife. Hagar becomes pregnant and give birth to a son. Abraham names him, Ishmael. As time passes Hagar and Ishmael taunt the childless Sarah. Sarah wants her handmaiden and child driven from the camp.

Genesis 17 - God appears to Abraham 13 years after the birth of Ishmael, when he is 99 years old. God tells Abraham that he is going to be the father of many nations. God establishes the covenant with Abraham in that, God will bless Abraham, give him the entire land of Canaan, make him a great nation and the entire world is to be blessed through him. Abraham is to obey the covenant by the circumcision of all male children.

Again, God promises Abraham that he will have a male child who will continue the Promise of the Covenant. Abraham laughs at the thought that a man close to a hundred years old will have a child. Abraham asks God to accept Ishmael as the heir-apparent and holder of the covenant. God promises him that Ishmael will be a great king and that he would be the father of twelve princes. But, God says, "I will establish my everlasting covenant with the child that Sarah will give you."

Genesis 18 - Gives the story of an extremely rare occurrence in the Old Testament. While Abraham is at his tent he sees three men walking towards him. one of the figures is identified as, The Lord. This occurrence is known as, theophany. Theo, meaning God, and phany, meaning appearance. So, the Lord himself comes to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre. 

After Abraham has prepared food and his guests have eaten the Lord asks Abraham where Sarah, his wife is. Abraham tells him that she is in the tent and then the Lord lays them flat by announcing that this time next year Sarah will be pregnant. Sarah laughs to herself at the preposterous news. She knows that her body is no longer able to become pregnant.

The Lord challenges Abraham as to why Sarah laughed and she is afraid. She insists that she didn't laugh. The Lord, revealing his omniscience, simply tells her that she did laugh. The Lord reveals to Abraham the destruction that is coming to Sodom and Gomorrah. The truth that God would listen to Abraham as he tries to interceded for the righteous that might be in the cities gives clear indication as to Abraham's position.

Due to Abraham's intercession Lot is spared from the destruction of the twin cites. He escapes and lives in the mountains with his two daughters. During the night the daughters get Lot drunk and sleep with him. Both daughters give birth to sons who are to become the father of the Moabites and the Ammonites. [significance comes later]

God's promise to Abraham and Sarah comes to pass and Sarah gives birth to a son. Abraham names him Isaac. On the eighth day Isaac is circumcised as the sign of the covenant. Sarah remembers all of the taunting that came her way by Hagar and her son. Sarah insists that Abraham kick them out of the camp. God assures Abraham that it is ok and that He is going to make Ishmael into a great nation. Hagar and Ishmael walk into the wasteland.

Hagar and Ishmael are near death and an angel appears to Hagar and promises them life and posterity. Ishmael is to become the father of the, Twelve Princes of Arabia.

More to follow the first of the week. Check out my website  Place the blog on your favorite tab for easy access. Comments always welcome.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Middle East- Will Peace ever Come?

Peace in the Middle East- Since 1947 the land of Israel has been filled with violence and wars. One wonders if peace will ever come to the land of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. How did all of the violence get so out of hand? Who does the land really belong too? Can Muslims and Jews ever really live in peace?

To gain a good understanding of what is happening today we need to understand yesterday. Only, this yesterday is four thousand years ago. It might be hard to imagine and some readers might disagree with me, but my hypothesis is simple. The hatred that brings death today comes from the strife of four millennia ago.

Abraham was chosen by God. The sovereign plan of God was to bring to life a people who would be peculiarly His. From His people he would bring forth the promised messiah, the Christ of God. God chose Abram to be the father of this peculiar group of people. I use the word, peculiar, because in the land of polytheism the worship of a single God made them peculiar. God spoke to Abram and Abram recognized the voice as that of God. [His name is Abram until later.]

God instructed Abram to leave the land he was living in, now Iraq. He was to travel to a land he had never seen before. Abram, his wife and his nephew, along with all of their possessions began the journey from Haran. They walked the 1500 miles to the land of Canaan. Genesis the 12th chapter gives us the story of their journey.

Upon arriving in Canaan God appeared to Abram and informed him that his offspring would inherit the land. There was a famine in the land and Abram must travel to Egypt. While traveling to Egypt he asks his wife Sari to lie to the Egyptians by telling them that she is Abram's sister. It is a half truth as she is in fact his half sister. Abram was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him in order to have Sari. She lies and the Egyptians face the curse of God.

Abram and Sari leave Egypt with gifts of livestock and treasure from the guilt ridden ruler of Egypt. A note; it is important to remember that Abram is a man, with flaws and issues, but chosen by God. When Abram and Sari enter Canaan again Lot heads towards the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah.

God appears to Abram and tells him that as far as he can see to the north, south, east and west, all of the land is his. And, his offspring will be as numerous as the dust of the earth. Abram struggles with the promise from God because he is childless. The importance of children can not be over emphasized in understanding the culture and time of biblical settings.

Not only was Abram without a child, he was aware that a servant child in his household would inherit his possessions and position. God comes to Abram and gives him assurance that he would have a child of his own. In spite of his circumstances in regards to posterity Abram believes what God had said. Righteousness by faith is established as it is noted in Genesis 15:8, "Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness."

The issue of God establishing a covenant with Abraham is the absolute foundation of the relationship between the Jewish nation and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This is the first in a series about events of today in regards to the violence in the Middle East. The articles will take a Biblical Perspective that lay the groundwork in understanding the present circumstances in Israel.

I welcome comments and thoughts about this or any other of my posts. Use my email address ; also find me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.