Good Doubts and Good Complaints – Genesis 15

good complainingAfter these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

7 And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Genesis Chapters 13-14

13 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.’

10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan towards Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.’

18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.

Abram rescues Lot

14 At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar – four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

13 A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.’

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.’

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, “I made Abram rich.” 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me – to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.’

Prayer Focus for Ukraine – March 23, 2014

Pray for the current situation with the Russian occupation of Crimea, that it will come to a peaceful solution.

Communism fell two decades ago, but its effects are still deeply felt. The market economy has actually driven many to poverty while lining the pockets of the elite. Corruption reaches to the highest levels while pensioners, teachers, doctors and other state employees struggle economically. The moral vacuum of post-Communist freedom led to rapidly increasing rates of alcoholism and AIDS. Pray for righteousness, justice and compassion to shine forth into this situation.



Prayer Focus for Pakistan – March 16, 2014

Pakistan, Asia:

The Church continues to grow despite many obstacles. In effect, most Christians exist as second-class citizens, coming from poor backgrounds and classes. Pray for:

a) Revival. Poverty, illiteracy and lack of teaching have hastened corruption, carnality and lowering spiritual standards. Substance abuse occurs frequently enough among Christians to be a terrible testimony to Muslims. There are pockets of real devotion (perhaps 10% are reckoned to be committed, vivid believers), but the large majority of the Church is nominal or immature.

b) Spiritual leadership in churches. Leadership struggles, court cases, factions and divisions are far too common. Many minister for the financial gain to be had. Pray for the raising up of humble, committed leaders with a passion to serve the Church.


It’s Not Black and White – Genesis 12:10-20


Harem by Carl Spitzweg

10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.

Go and Die and Live – Genesis 12:1-3

God Renews His Promises to Abraham by James Tissot, 1902

If someone were to say that religion is supposed to bring about an abundant life, I think we’d all agree. If another were to say that Jesus came to give life, there should certainly be rousing approval. Christ came to give life back to the world, for as John writes in his Gospel, “In him was life” (John 1:4).

Yet, it doesn’t take long before we come across other statements in the Gospels where Jesus says he came to bring death. For example, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The key is in seeing how death and life come together in his following statement: For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24).

So how do we understand our Lord? How can he both come to bring death but also come to bring life? And where is he coming up with this stuff anyway? For the answer, we ought to look back to Jesus’ Bible, or what we call the Old Testament.

Take for example Genesis 12:1-3. Here we have Abram, part of the mass of a humanity clouded by the fallen dust of Babel’s tower and still wandering east of Eden. Abram is no better than the rest. Yet, God speaks to him words of life. He makes promises to Abram that he will give to him a great people in a place to call his own. God promises his presence to Abram along with a fascinating purpose. You could call these promises “The Four ‘P’s” – presence, place, people, and purpose – but Paul calls them the gospel (see Galatians 3:8).

These four ‘P’s were the very bricks that the dreams of the Babelites were made of: having one place to live, as one people, with the blessing of God’s presence and a fulfilled purpose, resulting in a great name (see Genesis 11:1-9). Yet, the only way to these promises of life was through death. In order for Abram to obtain the promises, he had to trust God and leave all of the false ways of seeking these things. God called him to “Go” from his country, or land (place). God called him to “Go” from his kindred and his father’s house (his people and the presence of their gods). And all this put together meant giving up any claim to the fame of a great name (purpose). Who would remember Abram now as anything more than a traitor, an abdicator?

So the only way to obtain the promises of life was to walk through death: death to the presence of false gods, death to the overestimation of people’s power, death to the pride of place, death to the human creation of purpose. Yet, through trusting the promise and leadership of this mysterious God, Abram would be led back into life the way it was always supposed to be, which fundamentally is friendship with God (see James 2:23).

geoengineering-planet-crazy-idea-technological-solution_187This is where Jesus got his crazy ideas – and he lived them out to the fullest. Through his death he makes our death possible. Through his resurrection he has made real life possible. Jesus went and died and lived. Through faith in him we follow him into death; through trusting him we follow him into resurrection (see Romans 6:1-11). Go and die and live – this is God’s recipe for fixing a world gone wrong.

Questions for Consideration

  • What do you most hate about the idea of Jesus calling us to die? (if Jesus’ call doesn’t rub you the wrong way then you might want to check your pulse)
  • Where is the Spirit of Christ seeking to lead you away from falsehood?
    • People
    • Place
    • Presence
    • Purpose
  • What do you most love about Jesus calling us to resurrection?
  • Where is the Spirit of Jesus seeking to empower you into resurrection?
    • People
    • Place
    • Presence
    • Purpose

Prayer Focus for Oman, Asia – March 9, 2014

Challenge for Prayer

Almost the entire Christian population is expatriate. There are four centres where Christians of over 30 denominations or languages meet and where services in many languages are held. There are no restrictions on evangelism among expatriates, and there is a steady stream of conversions among Asians in both the newer and more traditional churches. Churches are very active, conducting home groups, TEE and Alpha Courses. Pray for the Christians to live godly lives that clearly display Christ to their unbelieving neighbours, both expatriate and Omani.



Prayer Focus for Norway – March 2, 2014







  • Norway, Europe:

The formation of independent mission organizations within and without the Lutheran Church is bringing high levels of member-commitment to congregational life and to missions. These groups blend Lutheran heritage with informal Pietist-rooted evangelicalism. The hubs of these movements are found in mission houses – informal nodes of worship, prayer and community where the lay organizations were founded. Almost the entire foreign missionary effort of the Church of Norway, and a considerable amount of domestic evangelistic work, are carried out by these organizations; the Norwegian Missionary Society, Norwegian Lutheran Mission, Normisjon and others are part of this movement. Pray for their continued role and impact in a changing society.

Babel Babel – Genesis 11:1-9

laugh-300x295 (1)     Do you like to laugh? You should definitely read the Bible. I don’t mean that in the sense that the contents are laughable or ridiculous. No, the contents ought to be regarded with the highest amount of respect, for they are the very Word of God. Rather, if you like to laugh, you should read the Bible because it is filled with accounts of irony, satire, incongruity, and hilarious plot reversals.  Not to say that every page, chapter or book is filled with hilarity, but when we think of funny, we shouldn’t count God out.

God has even chosen to make us laugh a little during very sobering moments or in the midst of very somber realities. Take the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 for example. As one of the crowning moments of humanity’s folly, we sought to establish our identity (“let us make a great name for ourselves”) and our security (“lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth”) by means of our ingenuity and power, drawing God down out of the heavens to bless us (“let us build a city with a tower with its top in the heavens”). This was stupid and also very disrespectful. Let me explain. The city and tower made up an ancient religious complex. The city was where God was supposed to live, and the tower was a ziggurat. A ziggurat was like a pyramid, which at the top it had things like food and perfumes that would entice a needy God to come down and live among the people – bringing with her all the goodies from the heavenly dimension. The problem is that the only true God doesn’t need food or incense. He doesn’t need anything because he made everything, and he made everything because he wants everything to know what it is like to live in dependence upon such a divine, holy and personal Father.

It begins to get funny when the tower that the people thought reached the heavens was so short God had to come down to see it. After a thorough investigation, which is one of God’s habits (compare with Genesis 3 and 4), he perceives that this willful ignorance of God’s true character will not lead society in the right direction. He frustrates their plans by confusing their speech, and they earn their name – Babel. That’s right: in setting out to make a great name for themselves apart from God’s wisdom and power, they earned the name of “Confusion.” To top off all of this irony and plot reversal, the name in Hebrew sounds like the babbling of some crazy man. This stuff is supposed to make you chuckle.

Ziggurat at Ur in Iraq

Ziggurat reconstructed in Ur, Iraq

So when the world is getting you down and you think everything will always go from bad to worse, remember that God will have the last word. When you are watching the nightly news and beginning to feel that anxiety crawl up your neck, turn off the TV and let out a long and enjoyable “BLBLBLBLBLBLB,” knowing that God will have the last laugh.