Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm afraid of God's path

We sat there staring at each other. We both wanted to move to Dallas, but nothing was opening up. His eyes searched mine, “Maybe it’s time to open the door to job opportunities anywhere.” He knew how much my heart felt Dallas was where we were to go, but he was right. We needed to let God be in control. Trying to make it happen ourselves, limiting the location, had only given us months of silence. He let the recruiter know we were open to whatever crossed his desk, and within the week we had a job offer to Dallas.

I tell you this story not to say your wildest dreams will come true. We had tried to move overseas twice while we were in the military and it didn’t work out. Captain’s desire to stay in the military until he retired wasn’t the way we were led, either. Some things we want do not happen. So, what’s with the story?

Just like Israel was willing to let God lead, we have to be as well. I learned that when we moved to Dallas and when we left Dallas. Both situations were so out of our control we knew they were designed by the hand of God. But neither situation was easy or smooth. We had issues selling homes, moving goods, time wasn’t on our side, we took a gigantic loss in one, and we struggled with separation during both. So often we think God will orchestrate everything smoothly if we are following His plan, but that’s not always the case.

I will confess even after we had moved out of Dallas, and were relocated, my heart was not in a good place. In the past two years situations have transpired which didn’t make sense. I questioned and pouted. In fact, there were a few months I was downright mad. But God was good and faithful. He took care of us in all ways, and is still continuing to do so. And truth be told, I have grown and am learning so much because of the path we are on.

Israel is a good reminder to follow after God, but not expect easy when you do so. Israel was grateful to see his son again, but in so doing he had led his people to the land where they would be enslaved 400 years. This was God’s plan to make them a great nation. I’m learning to trust the path God sets me on even when it doesn’t make the turns I think it will.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The fear of giving God your choice.

Genesis 46:3-4
“I am God, the God of your father,“ he said.
“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.
I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.
And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

God and Israel had spoken six times previous to this, but God had never told him “do not be afraid” until now. {The English translation is pretty straightforward from the original Hebrew}. There were no nuances which led to a different understanding of what was being said. I had to look back into Israel’s story and that of his ancestors to understand why Israel would need affirmation at this time.

Abraham, Israel’s grandfather, went to Egypt without God’s direction. He found strife there and was asked to leave the country. I am sure the lesson that was passed down from this story was not to leave the covenant land without direction from God. Israel was not simply a son any longer, he was the patriarch. He was the one the covenant promise would continue through. I can only imagine when he stopped in Beersheba this story played through his mind. I can see it spurring him into the sacrifices he made. Setting a request before God, “Will you allow me to go to Egypt to see my son?”

On the other hand, Isaac, Israel’s father, had headed to Egypt but God stopped him. He was not allowed to go to that country. I am sure this story had been passed down as well. What feelings would it have brought to Israel? I can imagine him being scared he would receive the same word from God his father did. Torn between his desire to see his son, and to follow his God, he waited to hear what the Lord would say.

I can imagine these two stories being fully remembered as Israel sat in Beersheba where his ancestors worshiped God. Now it was Israel’s turn to know whether he would go to Egypt. His desire not to make the same mistake Abraham did, yet the temptation to do so because Isaac had been told not to go would have fought each other. I do not think the lesson is to go headstrong into an action and God will bless you on your path. Let’s look at what we can learn from his story.

Question 1: “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” Surely you have heard this saying before. How similar is it to what Israel would have done had he forged head long to Egypt, hoping that everything would turn out well? However, he chose to stop and seek God’s direction before moving forward. What do you need to stop and seek God’s direction for in your life?

Question 2: “What happened to one happens to another.” No, this is not a familiar quote but I believe it is one we often live by. Have you thought you knew the outcome for you, for you saw the outcome for another? The truth is God has a specific plan for each of us. Israel’s path was not Isaac’s even though similarities abounded. Is it time to allow God to control your story rather than you defining the box He should stay in?

Heavenly Father
I am often amazed how you love me
You have designed my days in ways I can never imagine
You have placed me on a path that is unique to me
Please keep directing me in the way I should go
Please align my heart with You
Thank you for the lessons learned and the unique opportunities both

Monday, June 25, 2012

Israel's Fear

The next time God says “Do not be afraid” is Genesis 46:3-4 when He speaks to Israel. Israel has just been informed that not only is his son, Joseph, alive, but his family has been asked to come live with Joseph in Egypt. Egypt is fraught with conflict for Abraham found strife there, and Isaac was told not to go to Egypt. Now it’s Jacob’s turn to face going to Egypt. In Genesis 37-45 you can read what has happened up to the verses I have fictionalized here.

And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.

Israel heard the name God used. He was scared God was calling him to follow where he did not want to go. He knew he started this trip headstrong. When he arrived in Beersheba everything seemed to stand still. He bowed his head, “You knew my son was alive. Now I know. Please do not keep me from him.”

“I am God, the God of your father.”

Isaac held his breath. Was this a reminder of his father’s experience? He wondered if his request would receive the same answer Isaac was given. Would he be turned away from Egypt as well? His heart flirted with the temptation he did not take. It would have been easier to simply continue to Egypt as Abraham once did. Yet even as his heart was torn in two he knew he didn’t want to go without God’s direction.

“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.”

With a quick exhale, tears began flowing down Israel’s face. God was sending him where he so desperately wanted to go. He had been fearful the answer would be no. Israel looked up to the heavens and took a deep breath. If God was going with Him he could go confidently. If God was bringing him back the covenant would remain.

“And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

This was more than Israel’s heart could bear. He was grateful to be alone with God in this moment. He had so much heartache and loss through his life. To see his son again, Joseph, his beloved son, was more than he ever dreamt possible. To know Joseph would be the last thing he saw gave him peace for the rest of his days, however long or short they were. He was still ready for death, but he would go in peace now.

Genesis 46:3-4

"I am God, the God of your father," he said. "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and i will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes." (NIV)  
And He said, I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will there make of you a great nation. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you [your people Israel] up again; and Joseph will put his hand upon your eyes [when they are about to close in death]. (Amplified)  
Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes.” (ESV)  
God said, "I am the God of your father. Don't be afraid of going down to Egypt. I'm going to make you a great nation there. I'll go with you down to Egypt; I'll also bring you back here. And when you die, Joseph will be with you; with his own hand he'll close your eyes." (The Message)
Israel - "He struggles with God"
Jacob - "follower, replacer, one who follows at the heel"

Abram and Egypt::
Genesis 12:10-20
Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.  He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.  So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Isaac and Egypt::
Genesis 26:1-6
Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”  So Isaac stayed in Gerar.