The Journey: The Call of Samuel

October 15, 2017
1 Samuel 3:1-21
Lindsay Small

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like to nap and those who don’t.

Or as Kyle says, “Those who nap and those who judge those who nap.”

I’ve done extensive research on this…but I must begin by saying that I put myself squarely in the ‘nap’ category.

In fact, I’m not sure I trust people who never take naps…too productive… too driven in my opinion.

And let’s just be clear, I’m not talking about a three hour nap.

Although it is written of Charlemagne, the first emperor of Europe…that “After his midday meal, he would eat some fruit, take another drink; then he would remove his shoes and undress completely…and rest for 2-3 hours…

So maybe the lengthy nap worked for him…and he still had time to unite Europe and such…

But I was actually talking about the power of the power nap.

20-30 minutes…just to close your eyes for a brief time…and you’re good to go.

There are entire cultures that center around naps:

-In Mediterranean Countries, the Siesta is a way of life…the combination of a big lunch and warm temperatures have made naps a way of life.

-A study in Greece not long ago said that napping can lead to a decrease in heart attacks…

-Naps are not just for aging European types…they’re becoming the hip thing in places like New York City…where you can pay to rent a sleeping pod at the Yelo salon…a 20 minute nap will run you $12…$65 if you want the reflexology treatment to go with it.

-I usually nap for free…a little Sunday afternoon shut-eye…nothing like it. So perhaps that’s why I like this passage so much…

Today’s passage is an ode to the nap…evidence that napping is not only healthy…its biblical.

Here it is…in the Bible…it must be good for us!

Proof that sometimes the best things come to those who nap… Biblical Napping…what could be better?

For those of you who are perhaps not familiar with this term (that I completely made up this week…)…allow me to explain.

And with your permission, I’ll use this passage as our guide… A sort-of ‘how-to’ guide of Biblical Napping…

I believe there are three characteristics…to the perfect Biblical Nap…

1)   Naps can taken really anywhere…even in church!

I’ve had some of you say that you take your best naps in church! I can see a few of right now testing this theory!

 I must admit I’m getting a little ahead of myself. It’s important to create a framework of Biblical Napping.

What led to the holy naps Eli and Samuel were taking? And frankly, who are these guys?

Samuel…a pre-teen in this passage…was the son of Hannah.

Chapter One of 1 Samuel is her beautiful and heart-wrenching story…a woman who longed for a child of her own. A woman who was taunted by her husband’s other wife for her inability to conceive. A woman’s whose tone-deaf husband said to her, “Aren’t I enough?” When clearly, if this guy had two wives…the question really should have been asked of him!

Hannah finds herself in the temple…crying out to God…vowing that if she were to have a son, she would commit his life to God…to be a priest himself.

And Eli, the priest, sees Hannah crying out and initially thinks she is drunk. But he soon sees that she is genuine in her anguish when he hears her crying out for a child, and soon gives her a blessing…

The Lord hears her cry…and she conceived…and bore a son, a boy named Samuel. And when the boy had been weaned…Hannah says,

‘For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.’

 That is Samuel. Given even before conception to God…destined to be a priest someday for the Lord.

Now, who is Eli?

We first meet Eli the priest in chapter 1, when his cursing of Hannah turns to blessing…

Now Eli had two sons…and we meet them for the fist time in chapter two,

12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord or for the duties of the priests to the people. When anyone offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three- pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. —Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord; for they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt.”

Eli’s sons are essentially stealing from the kitty…skimming a little from the offering every week.

They are scoundrels! With no regard for God.

And when Eli finally confronts them…he realizes it is too little…too late.

So this is the backdrop for chapter 3…Eli the priest and Samuel his assistant…

All of this drama…all of these events…so its no wonder that in chapter three…

They are BOTH taking a nap!

I’m mean, nothing is more exhausting than family dysfunction! They needed a good lie-down!

And of course, the temple provides the perfect spot.

So again, the first trait of Biblical Napping is that naps can be taken anywhere…even in church!

The text says that Eli was resting in is room in the temple…but Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord…where the ark of the Covenant was.

The ark…the kind-of ‘mobile temple’…the container that held the 10 commandments…Samuel is napping in the same room.

And yet, the passage says that the Word of the Lord was rare in those days…and that it hadn’t been revealed to him yet. How interesting…here he is…in the same room as the Arc…but he had not heard from God yet…

Samuel must have been taught that the word of the Lord would be revealed to him at some point…and maybe that’s why he was in this room.

Resting…and waiting for the Lord to speak…

Even in his resting, Samuel teaches us an important lesson. Because human nature desires immediacy…answers right away.

If someone takes longer than 20 minutes to text me back…especially if I need an answer and sadly, especially if its my husband (sorry honey!)…I start to get annoyed.

We want God to speak to us…right now.

 But sometimes its about waiting…resting in God’s presence. Turning over the timing…to someone who knows better.

 Taking a posture of rest is foundational to Biblical Napping.

 And actually…foundational to life. God rested…we must rest.

Because a quiet, resting posture will inevitably lead to #2…

 The second characteristic of Biblical Napping…

2)  God can speak at anytime…even naps!

 Now because Samuel didn’t know the word of the Lord yet…when God finally does call…Samuel doesn’t know who is calling.

He thinks its Eli! Three times…he wakes up Eli…three times…

Now, I get annoyed when my kids wake me up one time! But three times!

But each time God calls to Samuel…his answer is the same… “Here I am!” ….in Hebrew “Hinani”

So far this fall we’ve heard a two other “Here I am’s.”

First from Abraham…when God asks him to sacrifice his son…and then Moses…when God asks him to free his people.

Hinani implies, “Here I am, ready, wiling and able.”

There's a special prayer on Yom Kippur called "Hinani" which starts, "Here I am in deep humility . . . "

Hinani…Here I am…the very word is a posture of faith, trust, and readiness…

And its a posture required of all of us: Hinani…Here I am…ready to be used…

One of the things I hear most from people is that either someone deems themselves too old or too young to be useful to God…

-How wonderful then to consider that Abraham was 100 and Samuel was 11 when they both said “Henani.”

 -We are NEVER too anything to not be used by God.

In our waking hours, in our resting hours…we are to be open and ready to God’s call.

Samuel says… “I’m here” and then ”I’m listening.”

God can speak at anytime…but sometimes…a resting posture is what is needed to hear God.

Henani is the deep breath before the journey…the look of resolve before a race…the stretch before the work-out.

Henani…here I am. Ready. Willing. Listening…because we know God’s call can come at any time…even in our sleep.

And the third characteristic of Biblical Napping is that…

3)  They are places to stop, but not stay…

When Samuel finally realizes that it was God who was speaking…he listens…

And God says…“See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.”

 Now those words would wake me up…have you ever felt your ears tingle?

And not just one…but both ears! I would imagine that by now, Samuel was sitting up!

But the words that follow are perhaps not the words Samuel was hoping for…

“On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.”

It might be that Samuel had wished he could have kept sleeping…God was talking about his mentor…Eli…God would punish him…and his sons.

Their behavior had gone too far. They were serving God in name only…but really serving themselves…literally…offerings that were meant for God.

So Samuel lay there until morning.

He lay there…not wanting to tell Eli the message from God. He was afraid. Eli called for him…”Samuel?” And he answered “Heneni.”

But he knew he could not stay silent…even if he wanted to…he needed to tell Eli…

Verse 18, “So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then Eli said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

We don’t like sharing bad news. And frankly, we don’t like hearing bad news. But in this case, both the sharer and hearer were faithful.

 It would have been easier for Samuel to slip out the Temple’s emergency exit…

It would have been easier for Samuel to skip over important details…to water down God’s message to Eli.

It would have been easier for Samuel to simply go back to sleep and ignore his mentor.

But God doesn’t ask us for easy.

God’s call to us is about moving into a place that seems right and hard, good and difficult, encouraging and perplexing.

(That’s why sometimes the naps are important!) But they are places to stop…not to stay.

-Our goal should never be total comfort.

-Our goal should be total faithfulness.

Samuel rested, waited, listened, and then rose. He was faithful. In his waking and his sleeping…

Samuel would go on to serve God as a prophet…He was a bridge between the period of Judges and the Monarchy…He would crown Saul and later would anoint David (a story we’ll consider next week).

And my guess is along the way he took more than a few Biblical Naps…

There is it…the guide to Biblical Napping…but perhaps its more than that.

Because while there may two types of people when it comes to napping… there is only one category when it comes to calling.

The Call of Samuel is a reminder that God has a call on each and every of our lives…

-No matter if you’re 11 or 111.

Determining that call is a beautiful mixture of resting and rising…of pursuing passion, need and vision,

And a constant posture of Henani.

Here I am Lord…waking and sleeping…ready to follow you

Renee Krueger
The Journey: Leaving Egypt

October 8, 2017
Exodus 33:1-6
Chuck DeGroat

A.     INTRODUCTION

a.       Big weekend of football. Sports / movies give us a sense of adventure.

           i.      Big realization for me 20 years ago – the biblical Story is an adventure story, too…one we participate in.  

         ii.      I was studying Bible from a distance…analyzing it.

         iii.      He said, “No it’s actually like your story…winding and messy…you participate in it.” He said:

The Exodus tells our story. Each of us has a personal journey to make, from our own Egypt to our Promised Land. We have left something behind in order to make this journey. We have had to break free from our former lives in order to begin afresh. We were in Egypt. We were delivered from bondage. We are in the wilderness, on our way to the promised  land. The story of the Exodus involves us—because it is about us.1

b.      Boom. That simple paragraph changed my relationship to Scripture.

c.       Exodus story came alive.

         i.      We all need to leave Egypt – a place of enslavement. Where we get stuck in so many different ways. A narrow place. A place we can’t thrive.

         ii.      We’ve got to journey to Sinai….where God puts us back together.

1.        I will be your God and you will be my people. NEW RELATIONSHIP –

2.     do not fear, I am with you. NEW SECURITY –

3.     you are my treasured possession, holy nation NEW IDENTITY–.

4.     Love the Lord you God…Love neighbor…wlak in these ways and you’ll thrive…NEW PURPOSE

              iii.    So good, and so important…but as we’ll see today…..

              iv.      BUT…we can’t get cozy at Sinai either. We’ve got to leave Sinai. Which, as it turns out, is tough…and requires us to face a lot of fear and anxiety…. Because…

             v.      There is a wilderness ahead. Uncertainty.

d.      I wish I could re-narrate the entire story this am, but I want to ask us to find ourselves in the foothills of Mt Sinai, the place that has become home since we left Egypt…and hear what God might be inviting us through and to…

e.       Hear God’s word from Exodus 33.

The Lord said to Moses, “Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

4 When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’” 6 Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.  THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD…

OK…wow…a lot there. God says go…but I’m really ticked off at you. You’re really stubborn…

BUT, hang on…as it turns out, the word of the Lord continues…you’ve got to skip the rest of Exodus, jump over Leviticus, and page on through to Numbers 10 where we find out where this story continues…when the Israelites actually do leave Sinai.

11 In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the covenant.] 12 Then the Israelites set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai…

  •  What was going on in the meantime?  
  • …. over a year of prep work in the Moses discipleship program before they can go.
  • Over a year of building the tabernacle, making the ark of the covenant and everything in the tabernacle.
  • Over a year of being sorted into different groups with different tasks.
  • …of learning about different kinds of offerings and sacrifices. Learning about clean food and clean animals and personal purification.
  • …learning of holiness codes and Sabbath and festivals and jubilee.
  • A year of preparation.

We don’t do this much in seminary in three years.

OK so imagine this…this has become their home-away-from-their-Egypt-home.  

o   One year in tents away from home, wondering if they’d ever make it to their new homes.

§  Can you imagine that? I can hardly do 2-3 nights in a tent before I want my bed and my shower.

§  Finally time to go! Get packed. Numbers 10:33 - 33 So they set out from the mount of the Lord for a three days’ journey with the ark of the covenant of the Lord going before them to seek out a resting place for them.

o   Sounds like a happy ending is on the way!!!

RESTING PLACE – MAYBE A NICE OASIS RESORT, MOSES? We’ve been working hard!!

o   But that’s not what happens. Stephen Dempster puts it this way:

o   “As soon as the journey from Sinai to the land of promise commences, the people move from disaster to disaster, or, in the telling place names given to the first few stops along the way, from ‘Fiery Blaze’ (Numbers 11:3) to ‘Graveyard’ (Numbers 11:34).”

And then it gets really messy.

  • The people began complaining even more.
  • That triggers Moses, who starts complaining himself.  
  • Aaron and Miriam are jealous and begin comparing themselves to Moses and begin complaining about Moses.
  • All that law and order that was set up, and now chaos has broken loose.
  • They’re left in confusion, out of control, scared, perhaps for some a situation that felt worse than slavery…

WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES A STORY LIKE THIS TEACH US?

…what does it teach a people who live in homes with iphones and cozy beds and high def TV’s and global access and extraordinary privilege…I mean, it probably has much to say to the exile or the homeless person, the refugee or immigrant…and if you’re here this morning and can relate in that way, this story will have much to say. But what about me? Many of you?

1)      Two invitations

a.       Leave Certainty

b.      Embrace wilderness uncertainty

1.       Leave Certainty…the Sinai’s of our lives…

 a.       What if we’re on a journey, like the Israelites? What if Alistair McGrath was right…that we’ve got to leave Egypt, navigate through the wilderness, enter the land?

           i.      ….what if Sinai can become just as much of an obstacle as Egypt??

b.      God was asking the Israelites to leave a place that became a secure half-way house between Egypt and Promised Land.

           i.      …a place where they had learned discipline…prepared…learned obedience and trust…where they were given the law…

        ii.      Maybe they’d gotten kind of used to it???

        iii.      I was talking to student at graduation last Spring. Smart student who thrived in seminary. Knew how to do school. She said, “all I’ve known is school…this next stage feels so scary and uncertain…”

c.       Transitions can be hard. They’re uncomfortable.

          i.      The high school senior graduates and transitions into a new community and a new home.

          ii.      The marriage brings new responsibility, especially when Dad says, “Now you get to pay for your health insurance and car insurance and rent…”

d.      In 2008, Sara and I moved our two young daughters from Orlando to SF, from grandparents to a place where we knew no one, from a home we owned (pool/lake) to a cold empty house in the foggiest, coldest part of SF.

         i.      It was a transition from security to insecurity, certainty to uncertainty.

        ii.      But it grew us up…

e.       As it turns out, the Israelites had a very hard time leaving the comfort of Sinai…

          i.      They did leave physically, eventually…but they left their hearts there.

          ii.      Instead of living into the freedom God offered, they chose an addiction to the law.

1.      They chose sin-management instead of freedom…

2.      Moralistic security instead of bold trust…

3.      By the time Jesus comes along, there is a whole movement called “Pharisees” who left Sinai physically a long time ago, but never got free of its grip.

f.        And, I don’t blame them.

           i.      In Egypt, they’d lost any sense of story and identity, and at Sinai God began to put them back together.

            ii.      Why in the world would they want to venture into the wilderness…a place of terrifying creatures and unpredictable threats and an uncertain future?

g.       Because it’s time to grow up.

            i.      This year I watched my oldest daughter drive off on her own. I’ve watched so many firsts…first steps, first day of school, first sleepover…each felt like my heart was being cut out.

         ii.      But I had to let her go each time, because that’s how you grow up.

         iii.      Paul says in Galatians, “the law was our tutor, our guardian until Christ came.” Continues to serve us, but we don’t go back to that developmental stage…in fact, if we’ve really internalized the law it bursts forth in a desire to live with freedom in God’s design for our lives…

h.      How might you and I be stuck at Sinai?

          i.      Some diagnostic questions:

1.      Does faith in Christ feel less like an adventure and more like a set of obligations?

2.      Do you dwell more on what you might have done wrong than God’s delight in you? Perpetual sense of guilt/shame?

3.      Do you find yourself dwelling on the imperfections of others rather than the image of God in others?

            ii.      When we get stuck at Sinai, life is defined more by duty, obligation, comparison, jealousy, and judgment than joy, freedom, delight, compassion and curiosity.

             iii.      When we get stuck at Sinai, we’re apt to sound a lot like the older brother…”I’ve been slaving away…” it’s not fair!!

             iv.      When we get stuck at Sinai, your theological or denominational or religious system or tradition becomes more like a prison than a hospitable home.

1.      …more about who’s in and guarding the walls rather than opening our doors and inviting strangers, we’ve missed the point.

i.        Frankly, sometimes I like to live like a cranky, self-protected, judgmental, know-it-all…but venturing into the uncertainty of the wilderness promises so much more…

2.      Embrace a journey of wilderness uncertainty

a.       What do I mean by “wilderness?”

            i.      Wilderness is where we begin to lose control.

            ii.      Wilderness is where the lights go out, and we’re feel all around.

           iii.      Wilderness is when we discover life is more complex than we thought.

          iv.      Wilderness is when we come to the end of ourselves. Blessed are poor in spirit…

 b.      I have been in pastoral ministry of some kind for 20 years

            i.      I’ve seen every kind of wilderness moment.

1.      Julie and Mark – perfect family, devastated.

2.      Got a call from mother of a young man I was counseling to tell me he’d committed suicide.

3.      Email from a rock solid pastor who wasn’t sure he could call himself a Christian anymore.

4.      Just this past year – multiple deaths of teachers, children, cancer diagnoses, racial incidents in our community alone.

 Now, Chuck, did you say we ought to “embrace this?”

 c.       I’m not telling you to pray for pain and discomfort or a tragedy…

d.      I am saying…if you are alive and human and in touch with your heart, you will experience profound pain.

 “To love at all is to be vulnerableLove anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements

That is not the adventure of faith in the Exodus story.

 3.      Paul Trudeau – your life must be shattered. Walking alongside an addict.

 a.       Question that might help ::: What’s your story?

            i.      We all have one.

           ii.      I don’t know a story that doesn’t include some moments of confusion, pain, brokenness….

1.      Was talking to a young student two years ago who said, “I’ve had a great life…really no disappointments.” Really?

a.       Parents divorce.

b.      Addiction in family.

c.       Tremendous sense of insecurity.

d.      His story was full of wilderness, but he’d found coping strategies to keep it at bay.

           i.      Lots of achievements.

           ii.      Seemingly happy relationships.

           iii.      Sprinkle a little Jesus on top, and you’re all set!!!

           iii.      Midlife is also prime time to discern.

1.      The old satisfactions don’t work anymore.

2.      Your body doesn’t respond like it used to.

3.      The doctor starts checking you more carefully.

4.      The sense that’d you’d be farther along, or would have saved more money creeps in.

           iv.      You see, the wilderness may not come in a drastic way. It might already be here, but you might be avoiding it.

1.      One guy – six beers a night, my pool table, and a game on in the backgrounds keeps me comfortably numb.

2.      One woman – I lived in an abusive marriage but never felt like I deserved more. I cut off my heart, and refused to long for more.

 b.      What if the wilderness is a place of transformation?

c.       What if we can’t avoid it, go over, around…but only through it?

d.      Like Jesus.

            i.      You might say, Jesus lived and died so that I don’t have to suffer.

             ii.      I’d say, “Jesus lived and died so that your suffering matters…so that you can find your life mysteriously caught up in the life of Christ…so that you can know the depths and breadth of his love for you.”

             iii.      That’s why we come to the communion table so often.

            iv.      Bread – taken blessed broken given. So, we are…

            v.      So, the Exodus story is your story…

              vi.      You can study it from a distance, analyze it…but the invitation is to become a participant in it…to find your life mysteriously caught up in this grand adventure on the pages of Scripture from Genesis to revelation.

            vii.      Fellowship, that’s your mission if you so choose it. God’s peace as you journey on. Amen.

Renee Krueger
The Journey: An Impossible Destination

September 17, 2017
Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14
Lindsay Small

A few weeks ago I took our kids to the MN state fair…

After a little while we made our way into the Miracle of Life Barn…only to find out that a calf was just about give birth. There were hundreds of people standing around watching this…with TV screens above with a closer view. A cow midwife was on hand to make sure everything went okay, and then…there was someone on a microphone giving color commentary.

You really have to see it to believe it. Once the calf was born…pretty cool…the color commentator said it was time to give the calf a name. They would solicit three names from the crowd…and then we would vote on the best one. So any suggestions? Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a hand go up next to me…only to realize that the hand belonged to my son Micah.

Yes, sir…your name suggestion please?! And with every ounce of his shyness squashed, Micah yelled “Bruce!!!”

And he won. (My parents visited the fair about 5 days later…they wanted to meet their grand calf…)

I don’t know what is in store for Bruce…I’m hoping for fields of clover…but that day Micah got a glimpse of the power of naming.

Names in the OT did not usually originate from a crowd suggestion and a vote… there was no commentator auctioning off names to the loudest cheer…

There was intentionality and care given to naming. Names were important. They pointed to who God is and who we are…

And they were important really from the very beginning, which is where we started last week…the creation story in Genesis 1.

So fast forward now in chapter 22…we’ve jumped over many names…Like Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel…there’s also been a flood…the tower of Babel…and in the the chapters leading up to the this text…

A patriarch has emerged. A man named Abraham…called at the age of 75…to move to a new land to help birth a new people.

And at the ripe old age of 100…Abraham and his wife Sarah did what they and everyone else thought was laughable…they had a son.

And they named him Isaac, which means “he laughs.”

Scholars debate the meaning of his name…does it point to the utter laughability of having a child at such a late age. Or does it point to the joy it must have brought them?

Or it is both?

Isaac, named for laughter, was Abraham and Sarah’s answer to decades of prayer and longing.

They laughed because he was finally here.

The test:

How I wish we could end here: Abraham and Sarah waited and waited. Isaac was born. And they laughed. The End.

But instead, we are led to chapter 22…one of the most difficult passages in the Bible.

A passage that raises more inquiry than answers. More question marks than periods.

It makes no sense. And no matter how I try to reconcile this text, there are elements that remain a mystery. There is no way to resolve it over the next three hours of this sermon…

Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son?

Background:

Now by way of background, child sacrifice was at times practiced by neighboring nations. People believed that if they wanted the gods to give them something big…land, victory in war, etc…they had to sacrifice something. It was a way to earn the gods favor…and in order to do this, make the greatest sacrifice.

Many Old Testament passages expressly forbid this practice because at times it occurred even among the Israelites.

So perhaps God was asking the impossible of Abraham as a way of undoing the practice around him…of saying…this is going to end differently.

But we don’t get any sense that Abraham knew this as he set out on his journey…taking two servants and his son Isaac.

The text says the journey took three days. Three days. Can you imagine what they must have been like? The anguish in Abraham’s heart…every step leading him closer and closer to a destination he never wanted to reach.

Abraham was faced with an impossible choice: disobey God or lose the most important gift he had ever been given.

One foot in front of another…no more laughter…no more joy.

Of course the text leaves out this emotion, this anguish…and yet…you can almost hear it underneath the facts: a father is being asked to sacrifice his son.

Ishmael

This passage lies within a remarkably close orbit to another passage…that is strikingly similar (even though the one we’re looking at gets more air play).

Abraham had actually fathered a son before Isaac, a boy named Ishmael, which means “God hears.” His mother was a servant of Sarah’s named Hagar.

In Genesis 21, Ishmael and Hagar are sent away by Sarah…she wants them gone so that the blessing would fall solely on Isaac.

Abraham fretted over sending his son away, but God assured him all would be well.

And so he gave Hagar some food and water and sent them on their way. Again, the text is so matter of fact about it…and yet…you can hear the whispers of desperation underneath the facts.

Especially after Hagar runs out of food and water for Ishmael…and so she put him the bushes. And she went off and sat away from him…unable to watch him die…

Alone in the wilderness…with her son…whom she thought would surely die in this place.

In these two neighboring chapters…parents agonized, seemingly alone…but with impossible situations before them.

How is it that two sons are seemingly left for dead?

 —-

Yesterday I attended my 20th college reunion at North Park University…I know… its crazy to think that I graduated when I was 11…

During the breakfast, my former pastor from North Park Covenant Church, received the Distinguished Alumni Award. And after crediting all that he learned from this brown haired parishioner 20 years ago…he said this,

“Over the years I have learned that we are to look for Jesus in every situation… even the most impossible ones.”

And so when we think of Isaac on Mt. Moriah… And Ishmael in the desert of Beersheba…

We are reminded to look for Christ in these places too.

In Genesis 21, verse 17, “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her: What is the matter? Do no be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

In Genesis 22, verse 11, “But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven: Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you hear God, because you have withheld me your son, you only son.

In these two unlikely places…God makes himself known.

In the middle of the dessert…GOD HEARS…Ishmael.

 And at the top of a mountain……GOD STOPS ABRAHAM…and brings his laughter back.

 Look for Jesus in all situations…even the most impossible ones.

The burden that followed you here…the relationship that is not healed…the dependency that you cannot seem to break…

Look for Christ…

The Christian life is not a life free of pain…it is one where we are promised to not go through the pain alone.

There will be tests…there will be trials…there will be loneliness… But God is right here with us…

There is a combination of impossibility and joy in God’s call. Of testing and providence. Of obedience and grace.

 But when I think of the lonely hill Abraham climbed with Isaac…I do see Christ.

Because, the Bible tells us that God had no good options.

That sin had grown too large to be reconciled by humans…

That the world had largely turned its back on God… and yet he was still committed to us. He still loved us. What should God do?

The answer comes in the form of another son: this time it was God’s son. A son who wandered alone in the dessert…

A son who walked up another hill…only to sacrifice himself out of love for the world.

God’s sentence of command to Abraham ends here in Genesis with a comma… and it is only completed with a period on the cross.

God will not ask anything of us that he himself is not willing to do. God will not ask us to go where he himself is not willing to go.

God makes the ultimate sacrifice of death of his son so that we could have life. Because ultimately, God is for life…for breath…for flourishing…

He promises both Ishmael and Isaac that they will father a great nation.

He promises to lead them away from desert places and into life abundant… And God promises us the same.

The passage ends with one more name: in verse 14: “So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide,” or Jehovah-Jirah.”

A name that reminds us of who God is: a God who provides in the midst of the most impossible circumstances.

The name is made more significant because of the road it took to get there… three days of a hellish existence for Abraham…but God provided.

There again, I see Christ…for on the third day he rose again from the dead. Questions still linger for me…in this text and in our world…

But in the midst of these questions…can we look for Jesus?

Knowing that in the end…no matter our name…Jehovah-Jirah is right beside us.

Renee Krueger