Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

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The Story: Week Two – Day One
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we read about God’s call to Abram (The Story, pg. 13-16; Genesis 12-15). Initially we look at God’s call to Abram. God details what He will do – “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. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” This is simply God’s choice. It’s not based on Abram’s merits. This is all God.

We will also look at Abram’s response. He does what the Lord told him to do. In faith, he responds. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Looking at Abraham’s actions in Egypt (which aren’t included in The Story) and with Hagar begs the question: Is faith different from belief?

Abram responded with perfect trust when God called him to leave his country, his people and his father’s household to go to a land that God would show him. Abram did what God said. He trusted Him even though he had no idea where he was going. But that faith wavers – that trust is less than perfect – in regards to God’s promise that Abram would be given a son. Hagar plays a role in Abram’s and Sarai’s attempts to help God’s promise along toward fulfillment.

The editors of The Story describe faith as “complete trust. True faith is much deeper than mere intellectual agreement with certain facts – it affects the desires of one’s heart.” Certainly that kind of faith was at work in Abram when he left his country and went to the land that God would show him. But that faith is less than complete in Egypt when Abram introduces Sarai as his sister in order to keep from being killed. It is also less than complete when Sarai and Abram agree on the plan to use Hagar to produce an heir for Abram.

So we have to be careful that we don’t confuse the ebb and flow of Abram’s trust with saving faith. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. We believe in God and His Word, even when our trust wavers – falters because we are sinful human beings. Abram’s trust faltered. He had his crises of doubt, but he continued to believe God.

The Story: Week Two – Day Two
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. That’s a great testimony of faith. While his belief was strong, his trust wavered. Today in The Story I read about the plan devised by Sarai and Abram to bring God’s promise to completion. Sarai gave Abram her servant girl to bear a son for Abram.

We get to see the consequences that come when we take control of God’s plans. Ishmael will be born, but he is not the child of promise. Hagar becomes pregnant, provoking Sarai to anger against her. Even after Sarah is able to conceive and gives birth to Isaac, her anger toward Hagar and Ishmael remain. Hagar is sent away twice – the second time for good. But God works good out of the bad. He promises that Ishmael will become a great nation because he is also a child of Abraham.

What we see here are threats to the promise of God. Abram and Sarai take matters into their own hands. Ishmael is born. Sarai’s anger becomes another threat. If God had indeed planned to fulfill His promise to Abram through Hagar and the birth of Ishmael, then sending Hagar away to fend for herself after she becomes pregnant could have brought an end to God’s promise. If Hagar had died in the desert, then the promise would have died with her.

As it is, God works in spite of them. Sarah conceives and gives birth to Isaac. He is the child of promise. And the primary point here (that we will see in other parts of The Story) is that God works in ways that leave no doubt to who is responsible for the outcome. God works through Abraham and Sarah in such a way that there can be no doubt who is responsible for keeping God’s promise.

We’ll see that played out again tomorrow when Abraham and Isaac go for a walk.


The Story: Week Two – Day Three

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Abraham and Isaac take a walk. And that in itself is an important point. In the Old Testament, time passes quickly. Generations are spanned with only highlights mentioned. But here the pace slows literally to a walk. That change of pace indicates that this is a pivotal event in God’s story – one that needs our special attention. On this walk we encounter another threat to the promise, an unwavering trust displayed by both Abraham and Isaac and God’s intervention that keeps the promise intact.

The threat to the promise God made to Abraham is one that God Himself brings. He tests Abraham. He tells Abraham to take his son, his only son, the one he loves to Moriah and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering. The child of promise is to be sacrificed. If Isaac dies, how will the promise be fulfilled? That certainly must have been a puzzlement to Abraham.

But there are no questions asked. Abraham simply does what the Lord commanded. And other than asking about the absence of the sacrifice, there is no wavering in Isaac either – even as he is being bound and laid on the altar. Abraham didn’t know how God would do it, but he trusted that He would provide the lamb for the burnt offering.

And God does. The angel of the Lord stops Abraham from sacrificing his son. A ram is caught by his horns in a thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it in Isaac’s place. In the same way that the blood of a sacrifice spared Adam and Eve from the fate that they deserved, so now the ram is killed so that Isaac can live – so that the promise remains intact.

This plays out again in the New Testament. The Father and His Son – His Only Son, the One He loves – walk to a mountain – Mt. Calvary. In the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prays that this cup might pass from Him, we could see that in the same frame as Isaac asking Abraham, “Where is the sacrifice?” The answer that Jesus receives is, “You are the sacrifice – once for all – for the sins of the world.”


The Story: Week Two – Day Four
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading begins with an editor’s note that summarizes the events that took place between Abraham being tested by the Lord, Isaac being spared and Isaac, just prior to his death, giving his blessing to Jacob. It provides an interesting backdrop for God’s work of keeping His promise to Abraham.

Sarah and Abraham die. Even though Abraham had other children by a second wife (Keturah), Isaac was the child of promise and he received the entire estate. Isaac married Rebekah. She gave birth to twin sons – Esau and Jacob. Esau was Isaac’s favorite. Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. We could spend a good deal of time on the impact such choices have on a family (none of them good), but that’s for another time.

Esau was born first and should have received (as was his birthright) a double share of the inheritance. But one day he came home after hunting and was starving. Jacob sold him a meal in exchange for Esau’s birthright. When Isaac made plans for bless Esau as the older son, Rebekah intervened on behalf of her favorite son and aided Jacob in his deception. Isaac was blind so Rebekah dressed up Jacob in order to pass him off as Esau. The deception worked – to great harm to the family. Esau vowed to kill Jacob and Rebekah sent Jacob packing to her relatives.

Jacob remains there in safety but gets a dose of his own medicine. He is deceived into marrying Laban’s eldest daughter Leah instead of Rachel. He then labored several more years so that he could marry Rachel whom he loved. That brings us to the time when he goes back home.

We see a change in Jacob. The deceiver has grown up. He is told by God to return. His past deceptions still weigh on him. But he prays to God. He confesses that he is not worthy of all the kindness and faithfulness that God had shown him. On his flight from Esau, he crossed the Jordan River with nothing but his staff. On his return, he crosses with two wives, eleven sons, many servants and large folks and herds. He asks God to save him from Esau’s anger. During the night, Jacob wrestled with God. God blessed him and changed his name to Israel.

So from the many nations that will come from Abraham’s descendents, Israel and his descendents are the chosen nation – the line though which God will keep His promise of salvation and restoration for His creation. Through the manipulations and deceptions of Jacob, Rebekah and Laban – through the hostility and separation between brothers – God was at work to keep His promise intact. This is another aspect of God’s story that repeats itself again and again through His story. He works in the midst of circumstances and through ordinary sinful people to leave no doubt as to who is responsible keeping His promises.

And that is a comfort and encouragement to us as we live and struggle with the sin in us and in the world. God is at work in the same way today to preserve His promise, to keep us steadfast in faith and to bring us home.

The Story: Week Two – Day Five
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

As I read through the last pages of Chapter Two, evidence of the change in Jacob continues.

1) He gives instead of takes (the gifts of herds and flocks to Esau – gifts that Jacob gives in response to God’s graciousness to him).

2) Having been received favorably by Esau, Jacob says that seeing Esau’s face is like seeing the face of God. And that’s the way forgiveness is supposed to work. Certainly it is that way when I announce God’s forgiveness when we worship together every Sunday. But it is also that way whenever we forgive each other – whenever, for the sake of Christ and His work done for us, we speak that word of forgiveness. It’s God working through us to touch us – to make Himself known.

3) Jacob instructs his household to get rid of the foreign gods that they have brought with them and to change their clothes. Jacob here does what Joshua did when he entered into the land of Canaan saying, “For me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” In response to God’s grace shown to Jacob through the years and especially now at his return to Canaan (God makes the same covenant with Jacob that He made with Abraham and Isaac – the promise continues), Jacob has truly come home – back to the God of his fathers.

And that really is the goal of God’s work – to bring us home. God has been gracious to us. In Baptism, He has called us by name. He has taken us as His own. He has given us a “change of clothes” – a new heart. And He is now the Good Shepherd who leads us home.


The promise will then continue through Jacob’s son Joseph. God’s faithful work will be revealed through the many ups and downs of Joseph’s life.


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