Friday, June 8, 2012

I'm afraid God doesn't really know me

I have been thinking about Abram and his fear all week long. Even as I am simply starting out with this study I am amazed at what I am learning. The phrase “Do not be afraid” is more personal than I ever thought it would be.

I was familiar with Abram’s story, and as I have done with so many things in the past I simply looked over Genesis 15:1. In my head it was simply God telling Abram that He (God) was the reward. Forgive me, but it felt so cliché. When you are in the midst of troubles and people say “I’m praying for you” or “Trust in God” that’s all very well, and thank you. I know no one who will pass it up or say no thank you. Sometimes, however, I'm not good enough for that to be a fix. What is needed is help, a hand, something for right now.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19 “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” I always found this ironic, because it seems all we are taught now is hope for the next life and not this. I don’t expect everything to go rosy, and honestly I have no room to complain about this life I have been given. But there have been times I wondered what I was missing. Was our hope only for the hereafter? After studying Genesis 15:1 I realized what I was missing were the things I was looking over.

Knowing God was talking to Abram about his very real fears, his heart, his desires… it just made it so much more personal to me. If God would deal with Abram in such a personal way, then He would do the same with me, and you. He would deal with all of us that way. It wasn’t a simple generic “God is our reward” it was a personal touching the heart “God is YOUR reward.”

No, I don’t believe He will give whatever I desire. I simply believe He knows me as well as He knows Abram. That is something I can hold on to. When my fear attacks straight to my heart, I need hope that defends the same way. That’s what this lesson on Genesis 15:1 brought me. I know no matter the hardships, the length of waiting, or the difficulties faced I don’t have to fear. Instead I can hold onto the hope which says God knows me and my heart personally. There I have found hope for this life as well.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The fear God's promise is impossible

Genesis 15:1
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram,
I am your shield,
your very great reward."

I wanted to know why God was telling Abram to not be afraid. After all, Abram must have trusted God to take care of him or he wouldn’t have gone to save Lot nor would he have turned down his portion of the reward from the kings. That happened just before this vision. So, how was Abram afraid?

{I did some research} as to what different words meant in the original Hebrew, and how the verse was written in different translations to get a better grasp on what was being said. Then I considered the Hebrew. “Great” meant “great in number or abundance” and was related to another Hebrew word which meant “multiply, increase in number.” It struck me. God was telling Abram not to fear because his great reward would be multiplication. How great would he be multiplied? As great as the number of stars in the skies. The only reason I considered this to be reassuring would be if Abram was afraid he would not have a child.

Being human, as I am, I considered what my response to God’s word would be. I am pretty sure I would misunderstand what God was saying to me the first time. I would need him to repeat it because I tend to get so wrapped up in my own thinking. If God had already supplied me with riches and bounty, then told me my reward would be great I would think he meant to give me more of the same. The problem with this thinking is God’s ways are higher than mine, and He knows my heart better than I do. The dangerous thing at this point would be to believe God will always give us whatever we desire in our heart, but this is something we cannot assume. So, what application can we take from this story?

Question #1: God knew what was troubling Abram. He also knew exactly how and when to go about fulfilling the promises He had made to him. God also knows you better than you know yourself. Does knowing this make a difference when you start fearing for things you want?

Question #2: Abram would get his son though he would never see his descendants number the stars. His children would also get the land promised to him, though not until after 400 years of affliction. Abram accepted this and rested in God’s promises.  Are we willing to accept God will take care of everything for us, even if it isn’t immediate or easy?

You, Oh Lord, You know my heart.
You know what’s under it all.
I can trust you because you are my protector.
You know my heart and my deepest desires.
You see me struggle and answer my questions.
I can trust you to know me as well as you know Abram.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Abram's Fear

The first time "do not be afraid" is found in the NIV version of the Bible is Genesis 15:1. The following is my fictional account of this verse. You can find the entire story here at {Genesis 14-15.} Tomorrow we will look in-depth at what Genesis 15:1 does and doesn't actually say.

Abram sat on the hillside contemplating the weeks prior. His nephew may be the death of him, but at least now they were both home safe. He knew God had put him in a place to save Lot but wasn't pleased with the danger his men had faced. It made him chuckle a little that the five kings needed his help. Him. A nomad. But it was what it was, and things should hopefully return back to normal.

He took a deep breath that went to the bottom of his soul. It seemed his normal was simply waiting. Waiting on the Lord to fulfill those promises. His eyes surveyed the valley and horizon and he wondered when the fulfillment would come. His heart yearned more than he would admit, but the treasure he sought was not what the kings would have given him. The treasure he sought relied solely on God.

“Do not be afraid, Abram.”

He didn't think he was afraid, or maybe he couldn’t admit he was. He simply felt heartsick. Would everything the Lord had given him go to a servant of his household because the Lord hadn’t given him the one thing he desired most? Who would receive this land if there was no heir?

“I am your shield.”

He focused on God. He focused on all the ways God had provided for him. God had led him to this land from his home. He had to trust it would be the same in the future. God would keep leading him and do as He had said.

“Your very great reward.”

He didn’t care if his riches multiplied anymore. He had enough. What difference did one more reward make if there was no heir? The real reward he wanted was a son. Didn’t God realize that?

And God smiled. “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

Genesis 15:1

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield. Your very great reward." (NIV)

After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am your Shield, your abundant compensation, and your reward shall be exceedingly great. (Amplified)

After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and they exceeding great reward. (KJV)

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision saying, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great." (NAS)

"After this" - what was this? :: Abram had just rescued Lot from the four kings, gave Melchizedek, a tenth of everything, and returned what he rescued back to the five kings without taking a portion for himself.

shield in Hebrew is magen - a leader who protects

reward in Hebrew is sakar - wage, reward

great in Hebrew is harbeh - great (number), many, much, abundance

harbeh is related to raba - to increase in number, multiply, grow large