Genesis 24 is a love story. Finally! After all the struggle and strife of Noah and his family, then Abraham and the problems with his neighbours and all that business in Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s so nice to have in interlude where two people are brought together by God in love. So Isaac and Rebekah are married. All together now, “Ahhhhh!”
But will there be a happy ending for the newly weds? In Genesis 25 Abraham has taken another wife after Sarah died and has more children. They all grow up and move away. When Abraham finally dies, his sons Isaac and Ishmael bury him in the family plot.
Then a ridiculously short bit telling the account of Ishmael and his descendants. And then we’re whisked over to hear the story of Esau and Jacob. Yes, them two. We know these two by reputation, don’t we? Rebekah’s twins who fought in the womb.
Esau (first born by minutes) is so hungry he sells his birthright to Jacob for a meal. I bet this is going to be a plot point we’ll return to later, don’t you?
And onto Genesis 26 and that sad bit we knew was coming has arrived. Famine strikes and Isaac has to leave his home to live in Gerar, where King Abimelech lived. Remember him? It’s where Abraham found himself back in Genesis 20 and he told the King that Sarah was his sister so that she could marry him. Talk about history repeating itself, now Isaac has to tell the King that Rebekah is HIS sister. But his plan fails because he is spotted “caressing Rebekah”.
Now, just a minute. Why is this so important? Wives pretending to be sisters? What’s the reason for this? Wives get killed, but sisters don’t? Why would Abraham and Isaac both think that? Suspicious of their new neighbours. They both moved into a strange place where the local customs would have been very different to the ones they were used to. What better way to try and integrate into their new home than by offering the local King a beautiful women?
But Abimelech is shocked that Isaac would do such a thing. And so am I, frankly. He is a good man and refuses to take a married woman for his wife. He sends Isaac away. We’re not told what happened to the twins, but we can guess that they were included in the eviction notice. You silly man, Isaac, things were going just fine for you. But I’ve a feeling God has a plan for him…
Matthew 8 is one of those stories that we read a lot in church. But seeing it in the context of the whole book puts a slightly different angle to it. First there’s the teachers who want to follow him. But Jesus tells them both off. “The Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” In other words, it ain’t going to be easy. And the second man wants to follow, but has to bury his dead father first. “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.” This sentence seems harsh at first reading. Is Jesus saying the man should leave his dead father to rot? I don’t think so. But following Jesus should come before anything. I’d like to think that in this case, the man was allowed to pop home first.
Then there’s the marvellous story of the storm in the boat. I’ll skip over this familiar story to look at the end of today’s reading and the two possessed men. The demons are sent away from the men and enter a herd of pigs, which then jumps into the lake and drowns. (8:34) “Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.”
Why? What were they scared of? Perhaps they were all possessed? Perhaps they made their living through pigs and didn’t want Jesus doing any more damage? In either case, they showed that they were totally ignorant and not worthy to be saved. Do we send Jesus away? What are we scared of? Are we worthy to be saved?
Today’s Psalm (10) seems to take this idea as well. The evil people crush their victims and think themselves invincible. But God takes note of it. “The helpless put their trust in you… Go after [the evil people] until the last one is destroyed.” Like the herd of pigs from the town in Matthew.
Proverbs 3 continues with a short commandment. “Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
Today’s thoughts are spinning through my ever confused mind with the messages I got after yesterday’s troubled blog. I received so many messages of encouragement. Thank you! We spent the day visiting relatives and so I had even less time than usual to write this evening’s blog. What’s important here is human contact. Anyone can spout magnanimous words of… whatever… But it doesn’t do any good if they don’t mean anything. Anyone can read the Bible. But unless you can take those words and discern some meaning from them, then it’s just a bunch of old stories.
I’m reminded of an internet discussion I had with an atheist last year. He criticised my faith in God, calling it a “fairy story about an big invisible sky daddy”. But (like most non-religious people I’ve met) he is missing the point. Why don’t we worship Odysseus, for example? Because the word of God as told in the Bible has something else, some unknowable quality which means it IS important. At its heart it is lessons in life. It is a rule book. And it’s about good overcoming evil. Every time.
If we can carry that through in our everyday life, when visiting family miles away or when bumping into casual acquaintances in the local supermarket, then we are doing God’s will.
And maybe, just maybe, when our time comes to meet the sky daddy he won’t be quite so invisible.