This morning is one of those days when I arise early and have little scheduled for the morning. That always makes for a more relaxed read through scriptures and reflection on what I have learned over time.
I am now once more in the Book of Genesis, as I continue my 40 year discipline of annual, sequential reading through the scriptures. Is this Book of books we call the Bible inspired by God? One must admit that the story line does read remarkably seamless, though written by individuals that lived in different centuries, even different continents. I put some stock in my approach. This is not to say that I don’t use a myriad of complimentary reading materials while cross referencing the various books in the text.
Now into the second half of my sixth decade, what good would it do, if I studied the scriptures, remained active in both church and community, listened to hundreds of scholars and preachers and never formed my own general opinion of the faith? What benefit would I bring, if I then never fully declared what I had learned? That is the purpose of this blog, this ongoing, high risk public journaling of my faith.
The Bible has always been presented to me as the Word of God and has always served me well in times of crisis. However, I must admit to the mystery of how the Holy Spirit has used this great book in my life. This God breathed tool, with its text captured by some of the best of God-followers, seems to have such margin for interpretation and yet, is so easily understood at times. The difference in those who struggle and those who find it beneficial may be the reality of the Spirit of God; Christ in us, the hope of glory?
The challenge arises when men are involved. My personal experience with failure and my observation of the potholes observed in the best of God’s servants, regardless of religious persuasion, gives me pause when anyone declares some certain revelation. We are “earthen vessels” or as someone has added, “cracked pots” at best. It is not the lamp that burns and gives light but the oil in the lamp!
Having just attempted to discount the validity of any personal interpretation, I will risk some disclosure. This all comes from a lifetime of focus on three people, Joseph, Judah and Ishmael; all having offspring that were children of promise! The third I know will not go unchallenged by the majority of my readers, but please provide some margin for error and remember that this inspired Word did come through the pen of men and their scribes, some who were not always as big picture as God!
All of these men were the descendants of Abraham, and all received some promise of blessing from God. Though Joseph was used mightily to position the children of Israel, he is mentioned minimally after the Exodus. However his second born son, Ephraim, not the first, was commissioned by Jacob upon his death bed, even when challenged by Joseph: “But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” (Gen 48:19 NIV).
Ephraim begat the lineage of Joshua and eventually became representative of the lost tribes of Israel, after Saul’s demise. David then arose out of the tribe of Judah, another son of Israel representative of a much more colorful life than the former excellence represented by Joseph. All this said, if one studies the Word and assumes it to be inspired, the prophecies eventually require a re-gathering of all of Israel, both the Northern (lost tribes) and the House of David, now seated in present day Israel. “Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.” (Isaiah 66:8 NIV).
Not sure what all this holds for America, now positioned as the police state for the world; nor, the American Church, so caught up in prosperity and politics? I shudder when I read the proposed solutions that are now coming from our political leaders, especially those that imply massive weapons of war. It seems that decades of boots on the ground have had little success in the Middle East as well, and may have only exacerbated the world’s problems. I know how I must be sounding but what good would it serve if I studied forty years and then just shared what folk want to hear?
Back to Ishmael, it is no secret that the challenges being offered by radical Islam finds it seed in the offspring of Ishmael. However, the interaction with the God of Abraham and today’s Muslim world is at a crescendo with stories unbelievable in terms of literal appearances of Christ. I have personally heard the stories of most convincing conversions among those devout in their pursuit of the God of Abraham. I have even met one international diplomat who professes both to be Muslim (one who is submitted) and a Christ follower!
Did not God promise Abram and Hagar that he would bless the offspring of Ishmael and make them a great nation as well? “The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Gen. 21:11-13 NIV). Of course later in Genesis 25:18b we read, “And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers.”
One cannot read the Word without awareness of both the love of God for all mankind and what seems to be an unfolding of events that could literally lead to destruction of this globe. The establishment of a New Kingdom seems to be evident and will come either through the return of Christ or by means of brutal conflict or perhaps both. Is Armageddon God’s will or the path set in place by a fallen race bent on their own destruction? Is the Church Triumphant the remedy to prevent this tragedy, by love, forestalling what would otherwise be inevitable? If it is the Church, can she adjust sufficient for the times?