Genesis 22-Consecration & Trust

Genesis 22:1-19

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Heartlessness or hope

Genesis 22 can be a difficult chapter for many of us given the tall order God sends to Abraham as well as the potential danger that a child’s life is put within.

While Abraham’s act of slaying his son as a sacrifice to God is a visceral hypothetical for us to imagine, we should give some pause to the thought: what truly belongs to us?

Abraham and Sarah have miraculously conceived of Isaac in a very old age. God has shown His power in being able to give life to barrenness, and in so doing He shows that life belongs to Him.

Too often we become attached and possessive towards the things we have, and strong feelings emerge from this in a negative way when those things are endangered. We tend to think of our wealth, our possessions, our flesh and blood as belonging to us. We may have manmade laws that deem these things as possessions or responsibilities, but in the end nature will show to us that all matter is a gift to us meant to be stewarded, not clung to. Though we may toil to put together aluminum, steel, and rubber together to make an automobile, those raw materials were not our making, but rather our own ingenuity manipulating the earth that was lended to us.

Such is the case for our children too, which is a sobering thing for myself to consider as a father. Though I pray that the Lord gives my child abundant years and a blessed life, I realize it is my duty to merely be a steward of this gift of life (and joy), to take care of it and do what I may in leading it into a consecrated life.

When we speak of “consecrated” we are saying “set aside.” We intend for that which is consecrated to be transformed and dignified, to have its proper belonging with its Creator and thereby intend for it to bring peace and goodness. That which is consecrated is not commercial, not profane, not clung to. By merely asking God, “how may I consecrate this to you” will we find new opportunities to give to God and to become more proper stewards of what He has given to us.

Abraham Finally Gets It

Abraham suffers a great deal of imperfection in this grand adventure he leads. On two occasions he uses his wife to protect his own life, and also commits infidelity which leads to a fatherless and husbandless household. What is interesting about these cases is that Abraham is a character susceptible to anxiety, performing some brash deeds out of fret for his own well-being. 

In this story, we see Abraham comes to an epiphany, wherein the marvels he has experienced through God are finally congruent with his own actions: God tells him he will have a great lineage and a great nation, and God also tells him to sacrifice his only son whom all this is to come through.

I think it is fair for us to assume that Abraham goes up to this place of sacrifice with his son out of great fear, out of much grief. He by no means is looking forward to this act of sacrifice. That being said, Abraham has accepted that His God has been good to him, that something will resolve the dissonance of the circumstances. He ends up proclaiming, “God will provide.” Abraham’s prior experiences of God finally meets his hope in what God will do for him, and instead of acting out of anxiety he acts on faith.

God and Man Seeing Eye To Eye

It’s also important for us to keep in mind that this act of Abraham to sacrifice his only son is not a mere test, but God inviting Abraham into a privileged place of empathy, for Abraham to begin to feel God.

Abraham’s given task of sacrificing his son is a symbolic archetype of God the Father sacrificing His Son.

The donkey with his servants is a symbol of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, the wood on Isaac’s back is a symbol of the cross, their ascent of the mountain is Christ’s walk up to Golgotha, and the relationship of Abraham sacrificing his son is a symbol of God the Father’s most gracious act of love to sacrifice His Son.

God is the only person who can truly understand how we feel at any given moment, in any given understanding. His vast understanding allows Him to know the grief we lament about, the hopelessness that we despair of, the torture we are subject to, the list goes on. Only God can know these experiences by merit of being God, whereas no other human could possibly conceive of the unique hardships we encounter, even if they have suffered similarly. In times of distress, we should rest assured God can know those big feelings.

That being said, God in this moment with Abraham extends the possibility for mankind to experience the difficult task of giving up one’s son. God invites intimacy with Abraham by giving Abraham this hard task, though God does not make Abraham see the act through, but rather allows him only to experience the anticipatory grief/loss. 

The opportunity for all of us here is to extend our experience and pain to God, to ask Him to visit us in our circumstances, to know that He can totally understand our pain, and that only in His company can such pain be navigated through.

Today, consider the following:

  • What are the things in my life that I treasure the most, that I would become very upset (mad, sad, afraid) if I lost? What assumptions do I have of these things?
  • How do I give what I have to God? How can I consecrate the things that I have?
  • What times have I acted out of anxiety instead of acting as though God was in control (or as though God would have the last say)? What times have I acted not out of anxiety but trusting God would navigate difficult paths with me, and what good things might come from this?
  • When have I reached out to God in a time of great hardship? What did I do to reach out? What expectations did I have in reaching out?

Genesis 14: Love Language

Genesis 14:1-24

In the days of Am′raphel king of Shinar, Ar′ioch king of Ella′sar, Ched-or-lao′mer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goi′im, 2 these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomor′rah, Shinab king of Admah, Sheme′ber king of Zeboi′im, and the king of Bela (that is, Zo′ar). 3 And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4 Twelve years they had served Ched-or-lao′mer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5 In the fourteenth year Ched-or-lao′mer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Reph′aim in Ash′teroth-karna′im, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Sha′veh-kiriatha′im, 6 and the Horites in their Mount Se′ir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness; 7 then they turned back and came to Enmish′pat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amal′ekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Haz′azon-ta′mar. 8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomor′rah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboi′im, and the king of Bela (that is, Zo′ar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 with Ched-or-lao′mer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goi′im, Am′raphel king of Shinar, and Ar′ioch king of Ella′sar, four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomor′rah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the mountain. 11 So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomor′rah, and all their provisions, and went their way; 12 they also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

13 Then one who had escaped came, and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks[a] of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.

17 After his return from the defeat of Ched-or-lao′mer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchiz′edek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,    maker of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High,    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. 

21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, 23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me; let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”

Fatherly Love

It may seem strange that we are discussing love language in the context of our first chapter on war in the Bible, yet we see various examples of it through three figures of leadership in Genesis 14.

As touched on in yesterday’s reflection, although Abraham has given Lot the opportunity to become his own man, he also is ready to come to Lot’s aid when he is helpless. Both are fatherly acts. 

Love often presents a challenge as to what the proper action is required, especially when it comes to a parent and a child. A parent sees to a child when they are crying and attempts to address the need. Burp if there is gas, feed if there is hunger, soothe if there is fright or pain. A parent has a responsibility to address the needs of a child given the power dynamic and given the wisdom/experience they hold.

And yet, this cannot be the only expression of love of a parent, or of any individual.

Love also requires us to surrender control, to trust someone else, and give them the space to do for themselves. Abraham didn’t settle all the disputes for Lot, make the decision where Lot would go, or till the land, he was to settle in. Abraham trusted Lot to carve his own path, to let go of that dependency, to endure a bittersweet good-bye so Lot could grow up and do for himself.

It’s a fine line of love to navigate, balancing between doing for someone else and giving space for someone to do for their own. This is not merely a dynamic seen of a parent to their child but occurs also for a child to their elderly parent that is suffering from waning strength or mental capacity. The dynamic plays out anytime there is a temptation to see overfunctioning and underfunctioning relationships, wherein an act of love develops an unhealthy dependency instead of addressing a need in order to help empower that person to later do for themselves.

Kingly Love

What follows in the narrative are tokens of appreciation from some of the Kings who have profited from Abraham’s bold charge into battle. Enter King Bera and Priest-King Melchizedek. 

It should be noted here that often Melchizedek is identified as “King of Sodom” in part because of the disjointed conversation that happens with Abraham and the King of Sodom (Bera) and the King of Salem (Melchizedek). While we may be tempted to reconcile the interruptions at the end of the chapter by saying “the two were one in the same” it doesn’t settle why King of Sodom was named at the beginning of the chapter, why the two kingdoms were named separately, and how could the priestly king that is exalted here and later in Hebrews was also ruler of the wicked city of Sodom.

What is actually more profound about the two kings coming to meet Abraham is to see the difference in their interactions with Abraham, to see stacked against each other their tokens of appreciation.

Melchizedek offers bread and wine and gives a prayer or blessing directed not to Abraham but rather to God. The symbol of the wine and bread is multi-fold, but predominantly the image that strikes us perhaps immediately is that of Communion, of the Lord’s Last Supper identifying bread as His Body and wine as His Blood. We can also see the bread and wine as a sacrifice as in the same verse that the two are mentioned we read that Melchizedek is a priest. A strong case can be made that Melchizedek wasn’t giving this to Abraham, but rather offering these two to God at an altar, on behalf of Abraham for his work. 

Conversely, the King of Sodom comes out without any blessing or prayer, but rather giving him the spoils of war–his own property he lost originally. This is to put it nicely as King Bera seems to almost haggle with Abraham for an undesignated people; we are left to wonder if these people are his own that were taken captive, or if they are prisoners of war from the other side that he’d like to take possession of. Though it sounds like King Bera is pleading/bargaining for some cut of the spoils, Abraham’s response indicates to us that King Bera was looking to gift Abraham for his troubles, to have no discrepancy of what he lost as a token of appreciation–what was his is now Abraham’s.

The reaction of the two kings is a stark difference. A meager offering–not even to Abraham–of bread and wine mingled with a prayer to God versus a great sum of wealth uncontested by a defeated king. Which is the greater offer?

Perhaps Melchizedek’s response was greater considering he gave bread and wine from his own means instead of sacrificing what he lost from the skirmish. After all, King Bera is “gifting” to Abraham what he lost in war, and “to the victor goes the spoils” in such a lawless time–this all rightfully belongs to Abraham without any international law saying otherwise. Moreover, Melchizedek offers prayer to Abraham’s god and purpose, to the Most High God, whereas King Bera makes a pseudo offering that sounds suspiciously like a negotiation.

Love Language

Gary Chapman theorized in his book “The Five Love Languages” in what ways we enjoy most receiving love and in what ways we typically show love. This consists of physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, and acts of service. What I find helpful of the term “love languages” is that it puts a microscope under our methods of showing appreciation and establishing connection with others. What I think is required of anyone subscribing to this philosophy is to see the shadow side of some of these love languages and how there might be more languages that we typically don’t think of.

Through the example of Abraham, we have seen how acts of service comes through strongly as a love language. Abraham risks his life and those within his service to save Lot from his circumstances. That being said, we’ve also touched on how Abraham did the opposite of an act of service for Lot as a fatherly act of love: he trusted Lot to make his own decision and to grow. We perhaps don’t think of giving freedom or trust as a love language because it typically involves doing less or something that doesn’t tend to draw people together. And yet, a strong argument can be made how Abraham and Lot grew in longing and grew in appreciation once they were reunited.

King Bera communicates the love of gift-giving, though Melchizedek too to some degree. What King Bera examples vividly, however, is the vanity of gift-giving, the danger that comes with showing appreciation through material relinquishing. We see this in Abraham’s response to the spoils, mentioning how he will not hold a single spoil or piece of Bera’s treasure, mentioning that he would never want to be convicted of being called rich because of Bera’s “generosity”. Abraham communicates what I think many of us might feel when receiving large presents from someone of power, a hesitation to accept a gift when there might be strings attached to a gift, a conviction of guilt that we are in debt to the individual, turning the gift into a quid pro quo of material good for acknowledgment or respect.

We are easily jaded when a gift is guilted against us when a large sum we are given comes with some kind of expectation. The reason for this resentment we feel is because the gift is a mere disguise for a trade we are suckered into. We may find ourselves at the point of throwing out a gift or ripping up a check when we foresee a demeaning consequence to our integrity. These gifts are the true “Gift” communicated in German, a hidden poison that later destroys us.

That being said, not all gifts are awful or unholy. Gifts that are given with discernment and with true good-will overwhelm us. What seems to hold true of these good gifts is that they are not vain, shallow, or insurmountably valuable, but rather they meet our aim in life. Melchizedek’s gift was paradoxical, not something of great or rich in face value–a day’s worth of sustenance at best–and yet it was of insurmountable value considering that the gift was to God on behalf of Abraham. Abraham sees the offering made for him, hears Melchizedek’s prayer, and sees Melchizedek knows what he is about and joins him in that common goal.

Melchizedek’s prayer is also a kind of word of affirmation. Again, we ought to be careful about this love language as too often we pay vain compliments we don’t really mean, lip service to temporarily ease-out someone’s ache for validation or attention. Instead, Melchizedek’s words of affirmation go to God, acknowledging Abraham indirectly through his direct speech to God. Abraham need not feel embarrassed receiving an accolade, for God receives the glory, and Melchizedek in-passing mentions Abraham’s allegiance with God.

Touch & Quality Time

The two remaining of the love languages seemingly missing from this chapter are that of touch and quality time.

Perhaps we can argue that these were still present in Abraham’s love for Lot. By allowing Lot to leave in the first place, he surrendered the proximity–the touch–of his nephew, and then by saving him he restored some quality time with him. 

But where I feel these particular love languages coming through stronger is through Melchizedek’s offering, through their symbolic foreshadowing of what was to come: Eucharist.

God’s love is manifest in this story through the prefiguring of Communion. In Eucharist, there is an actual tangibility with God through the bread and wine, a sacred moment wherein man has the opportunity not just to experience God on the outside with his hands or touch, but for God to dwell within through receiving of Communion.

We are not alone. God is with us.

Lastly, the response to this act of love is for us to set aside time with God. While we might be tempted to say “I do my prayers” and “I go to church” we ought to consider to what degree we are giving God our attention and our heart when we do this. While these are proper and right steps towards Him for our betterment, it takes intentionality on our part to make this quality time. Just as one cannot say they spent quality time with their child by sitting on the couch with them simply scrolling on the phone or watching TV, so too we cannot argue that we have given God quality time if there is some distraction taking our thoughts or heart away from that meaningful time.

Limitations in Love

With all this being said, I think it’s prudent to give a final caution to how we view love.

The love languages are great diagnostics as to how we behave and how we prefer others to behave, though there’s some work on our end to wonder and be curious as to why we tend to give love in that certain way and why we tend to want it in a certain way. If we concede there are even five love languages to begin with, we must consider that our love language will be different from someone else’s, for better or for worse, and therefore we may then need to modify how we expect it of others and how we will give it.

There is a shadow to each of the languages lifted. Gifts become transactions, touch becomes violation, acts of service becomes an overfuncitoning dynamic, words of affirmation become lip service. Unless this is personal bias, I would argue that quality time is of the more innocent manifestations of love, that if true listening, vulnerability, and bonding is occurring that there can be no dark side to being present unto the other.

The other function that identifying these love languages has is being able to get curious as to why and how we show love/appreciation. Do we find gift giving to be our love language because we knew what it meant to be given something during a time of financial uncertainty, or do we lean on this one because it affords us something when it becomes something transactional? Do we prefer touch because we were not shown or were overly shown consolation via hugs as a child, or does the touch itself assure us that others trust us and can be intimate with us? Acts of service is not unlike gift giving in it capable of being transactional or stemming from a time of need or an underfunctioning dynamic we grew up with, and words of affirmation like touch can be something we lean towards when we feel we weren’t verbally acknowledged (or were overly acknowledged) in our growing. Perhaps the quality time we desire also fits into the words of affirmation and touch, an unmet need of being heard or given intimacy.

This is not an exhaustive list of possibilities, but I mention some of these to spur us to consider why we tend to give love and tend to expect it in a certain manner.

It is perhaps also important for us to take inventory of what love means to each of us. In English, there is only one word for love, and it is lacking in its spectrum of manifestations and usage. For some, love is an affinity or a preference. For some, love is an obsession or fixation. For some, love is a duty and stoic. For some, love is doing everything for the other. For some, love is contingent or contractual.

And yet, I think Abraham and Melchizedek example proper manifestations of love in this chapter. Their example does not cover the full spectrum of love, though certainly they show how small gestures can mean the universe, and how difficult a line it is to walk when it comes to doing for the other and letting go out of love.

Today, consider the following:

  • When do I too much for the other or struggle with the theme of control? How might I manage this?
  • When do I fail to do anything for the other when there is a real need that needs to be met? What gets in the way?
  • If I had to pick a love language that I tend to gravitate towards, what might be some reasons for developing that love language and what might its drawbacks be?

Genesis 12-Sacrifices and Epilogue of the Adventure

Genesis 12:1-9

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation,     and I will bless you; I will make your name great,    and you will be a blessing.[a] 3 I will bless those who bless you,    and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth    will be blessed through you.”[b]

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[c] I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. 9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

Our First Adventurer

Abraham is perhaps the Bible’s first epic hero. While Enoch was righteous, and Noah certainly endured some trials, Abraham is our first figure who stays multiple chapters through the Old Testament through his grand adventure. 

As we mentioned in a previous post, there is something noble about the traveler, the adventurer. Abel’s vocation of tending to sheep no doubt made him nomadic, always traveling in order to give his flock fresh fields to graze upon, and this way of life required of Abel to be brave against predators and trusting in God for sustenance. We shall see how Abraham follows in this noble endeavor of nomadism and travel.

Later in chapter 12, we read how Abraham gets into some trouble, settling in the land of Egypt, wherein there is a spirit of jealousy and thievery instead of a spirit of hospitality. Abraham and his family are beset by trouble initially, perhaps even making some unwise decisions in his venture, but not without trusting in God throughout.

The focus of this chapter, however, that I think is important for us to focus on is the element of sacrifice and of a distant promise.

The Epic Tale With No End In Sight

Abraham is told by God that he should rise and go to a distant land and that God will bless him and will make him into a great nation. We hear words like this repeated throughout Abraham’s adventure, wherein God promises to Abraham his offspring will be countless, and his nation will be blessed. However, many of us already know the ending of the story: Abraham sees none of this. In fact, Abraham begins to doubt it at all as he and his wife are having trouble conceiving.

What is good for the reader, and difficult for Abraham, is this testimony that what we see in front of us tends to take up our whole scope of eternity and that many of us will never be able to see in our earthly lives how we affect the world. Abraham indeed is made into a great nation, and more than that helps establish a great foundation for the entire world: the Church. Israel becomes a beacon for the rest of the world to the truth of God and the precepts that man is to follow–we are reading Genesis now to uncover and understand our own human condition. Israel passes this torch to the Church when the Son of God becomes incarnate through Abraham’s bloodline, and brings salvation, transformation, and resurrection to all the world. 

Abraham knows none of this. He is given a vague covenant that encourages him to continue on, though in his earthly life he will never see this great nation, and until Christ’s death and resurrection he does not have any understanding of the cosmic impact he has on everything.

Such is the case for us. Many of us are disheartened by the circumstances we endure, the trials we face, perhaps even a sense of purposelessness or defeat. Our hearts and souls are crushed when we think of how we labor in vain when all we accomplish falls apart in front of us. 

Yet, there are cosmic repercussions for all our actions, and this impact holds more weight to the degree that we respond to the call. Should we consecrate our thoughts, our hearts, and actions, should we ask God for discernment and direction to our lives, we shall find it. That being said, the journey we will find ourselves on as a result will be tumultuous, perilous. And yet what adventure do we enjoy reading/hearing/watching that doesn’t involve some trials?

The peril we encounter is indicative of a holy path. The listlessness we feel when we are stagnant is a call to adventure. But all along the way, we are to ask God for discernment as to what His plan is for us, how we might leave a cosmic footprint according to His will and plan for us.

Setting God’s Table

The second piece of this story is that of sacrifice. Abraham makes two altars in his journey and on these makes sacrifice.

Sacrifice is a multi-fold action:

  • It is a banquet we invite and entertain our divine host into.
  • It is an act of gratitude for what we have been given, by giving something up.
  • It is a leap of trust and faith, immolating something that perhaps would have served ourselves in value or in sustenance.
  • It is the reorienting of the mind and heart to the heavens, refocusing us not on the here and now, but the transcendent, that we may remember our Creator and Sustainer, remember our role as steward, and look to eternity instead of the transient.

Abraham shows hospitality to God, inviting Him on the journey through this sacrifice, “setting the table” for Him (an altar is fashioned as a table, and food offerings are by far the most common sacrifice). Abraham expresses gratitude to God for being called, for sustaining him on the adventure even early on, reminding himself of what he has instead of paying mind to any difficulty or uncertainty. Abraham shows how he is “all in” with this covenant to God, giving up material comforts and sustenance to trust that God will give him what he needs. Abraham makes sure not to make this adventure human-centered but relies on God in this adventure (…well, he might waver in this a little along the way, even as early as his trip to Egypt).

For now, what I’d like us to focus on is the gratitude and trust piece. In our own vocation, calling, adventure, it is important we take inventory of what we have, and it is important we not become too confident in our own sole abilities, take on the world alone, or fall into the trap of a sense of control. Over the big feelings and crisis and over the mundane tasks, we must give these things to God, in sacrifice and praise. And just as Abraham leaves “milestones” through these altars, holy sites to remind him and others of God’s faithfulness, we ought to become creative as to how to create some of these milestones ourselves, these markings that bear testimony to the blessings in our lives, to God’s visitation to us. 

Today, consider the following

  • How have I invited God into my life? Am I afraid of asking Him to give me work?
  • What can I make or sacrifice as a testimony to God’s blessing in my life?
  • Do I feel a sense of direction in my life or a feeling of listlessness? What is my direction? How can I combat this listlessness?

Genesis 8: What To Do After A Crisis

Genesis 8:1-20

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. 2 Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. 3 The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, 4 and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

6 After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark 7 and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. 9 But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

13 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 

What to do when the storm is over

Noah and his family have endured a lot.

They have separated themselves from their neighbors–for better or for worse–and likely felt loneliness either from their different way of life or for their call to this holy task of building an ark. They have been stuck over a month on a boat, tossed and turned by a storm, enduring the sounds and smells of their animal companions. There is nothing but water around them, and as the storm raged there is no sunlight.

When things begin to clear up, they are met with uncertainty, sending out birds to find hope of dry land. It takes multiple attempts before they have any reassurance that there will be normalcy. But finally they come out of the Ark, inhabit earth again, and what is the first thing Noah does?

He gives thanks. He makes a sacrifice to God.

What a strange gesture.

We are to believe that the only animals left on the earth belong to the Ark, and so a sacrifice of animals is a strain to say the least on the circle of life. Noah gives this animal back to God as a token of trust and gratitude, of consecrating new ground: the new earth baptized.

Here is the first implication: consecration. Noah gives nature back to God in sacrifice, consecrating over a precious and limited commodity to God. Noah plants a spiritual flag in the earth through this sacrifice, claiming it as God’s earth. The stewardship man abused in previous generations is restored in a way as humanity realizes this is not a playground to make amuck of, but a precious gift that we are honored to enjoy that will be expected to be given back into God’s hands. 

The other implication of this sacrifice is trust. As mentioned, Noah is endangering new life through this sacrifice as it comes at a cost. Perhaps that burnt offering was supposed to be their next meal, or their livestock they would have raised to sustain themselves with. Noah and his family are sure to be no strangers of scarcity after seeing all things perish by the deluge, and perhaps they have considered another flood could come, or perhaps even a drought. The sacrifice is a leap of faith by Noah, a bold gesture that communicates to God: this is yours, I’m giving it back knowing full well that I might need it, but I trust you’ll take care of me.

The last piece of this sacrifice is the gesture of gratitude. Noah easily could have become bitter by this whole operation, said no to God outright, tore his clothes for all that he had to endure and for knowing what kind of destruction lays all around him. Instead, Noah gives thanks to God. Perhaps this thanksgiving was for being spared, or for giving creation a second chance. After the turmoil, however, Noah does not walk away feeling entitled or jaded, but rather chooses to be grateful through an act of sacrifice.

do we have a responsibility to sacrifice?

What bearing does this simple act have upon us?

As mentioned before, we all will encounter our own storms, our own deluge, our own floods. Sickness, loss, trials, suffering, whatever it may be, we all will find life tests us in different ways. When we are so fortunate, so blessed, to come out of said circumstances and find dry, stable ground again, the question must be posed to us: what are you going to do with this?

Too often I’ve met individuals who walk away from their malady, giving little consideration as to any change or feeling they ought to feel leaving the clinic, the hospital, their sickness. Should one just carry on, back to normal? Or shouldn’t we give pause to how to consecrate the new ground of our new life? Shouldn’t we, after enduring such a storm, learn or endeavor to trust having come out alive and well? Shouldn’t we lift our eyes, our hearts, and hands in thanksgiving to God, rising up to acknowledge what He has done, and give testimony to the blessings in our life?

Today, consider the following:

  • When you experienced a particularly “flood-like” trial, what did you do after going through it? Was it something self-serving or negative? Was it something gracious or positive?
  • Who are those you can trust? Who are those you can’t? Do you find yourself beholden to a schedule or routine? What is your relationship with the word control?
  • What are your first thoughts or actions when you first wake up? Where is your attention? What are five things you can be grateful for any given morning, and how d you put this gratitude into a habit?
  • What is something you can “set aside” for God and understand your role as steward?