Posts Tagged “Genesis”

If you’re reading along with us using the Resting at the River’s Edge reading plan, two weeks ago read Acts 11. This verse caught my eye:

God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of turning from sin and receiving eternal life.
Acts 11:18b (NLT)

It has always been God’s plan to give salvation to all, both Jew and Gentile. When God made His covenant with Abram (who God later named Abraham), it ended with this sentence:

“All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”
( Genesis 12:3b)

God intended Abraham to become a blessing to all the families of the earth – Jew and Gentile – men and women from every nation.

My just released book, More than a Fish Story, God Moving on Behalf of a City and a Man identifies seven Life Lessons in the book of Jonah. The first is the same message these verses teach us – that God cares about all people – even those we wouldn’t expect Him to. In the first two verses of Jonah we see God give Jonah the assignment of taking God’s message of repentance to the Ninevites. That wouldn’t seem like an unusual assignment for a prophet, but we learn that the Ninevites are Israelites’ enemies and they were a particularly cruel in battle. Yet God’s purposes hadn’t changed – He desired that the Ninevites would be blessed by an Israelite taking them the message of repentance. God was ready to bless them when they turned from their sins and followed Him.

And the two-fold message is the same today:

  1. God cares about all people – He desires that all people turn to Him.
  2. He’s given His people the responsibility of sharing the message with the world.

Of course every message from God has an application in our lives:

  1. If we’re to reflect the character of God (and we are), then we ought to care about all people…not just those who are like us or those that we like.
  2. Who might God be calling you to share His message of salvation with?

Don’t just read these words and quickly move on to the next thing. God has an assignment for you. Pause and pray. In what ways do you need to change? Who do you need to share Christ with?

You can download the book More than a Fish Story here. It provides 6 personal or small group studies in the book of Jonah and available free for a limited time.

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As we’ve read the final chapters of Genesis during our Resting at the River’s Edge readings this past week, we’ve been immersed in the life of Joseph. What a godly man he was! And what a man blessed by God! Phil and I have talked about him several times over the past week. It’s interesting that different elements of Joseph’s story impacted each of us. That’s one thing I love about the Bible. No matter how often you read it, God will always bring new things to your understanding or highlight different truths that specifically impact your current life situations. The Bible is truly a “God breathed,” living document.

Joseph’s Story
If ever there was a person who seemed to be a magnet for bad things it was Joseph. Ok, I can understand the jealousy of his brothers, but selling Joseph to traders was a bit over the top. If you’ve been reading with us, you know that Joseph was then sold to Potiphar, the captain of the Pharoah’s guard – essentially, his Chief of Security. Potiphar’s wife then falsely accused Joseph of raping her, so Potiphar put him in prison. While in prison, Joseph was joined by the Pharoah’s cupbearer and baker. After being in prison for “quite some time” (Genesis 40:4, NLT), both of these gentlemen had a dream. God gave Joseph the interpretation and the cupbearer promised to remember him when they were released from prison. It didn’t quite happen that way. The cupbearer “promptly forgot all about Joseph” (Genesis 40:23, NLT) and Joseph spent quite a bit more time in prison. Eventually Pharaoh had his dreams and the cupbearer remembered Joseph. God gave Joseph the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream and Joseph was promoted to Prime Minister of Egypt.

In all, it was thirteen years from the time Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery until he was made Prime Minister of Egypt. Quite a long thirteen years I imagine. But you would never know that from reading the story and watching Joseph’s forward and backward progress in life. We never see Joseph complaining, and we consistently see him honoring God.

How easy it would have been for Joseph to feel sorry for himself when betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. How easy it would have been for Joseph to succumb to an entitlement mentality when Potiphar’s wife begged him to sleep with her. After all, didn’t he deserve better than this? God had given him dreams of grandeur and he had been betrayed and sold into slavery. He had no family, no prospects of being married and Potiphar’s wife was beautiful and available. Scripture says that Potiphar’s wife “kept putting pressure on him day after day.” (Genesis 39:10, NLT). Didn’t he deserve some happiness? That’s how the world thinks. Joseph thought differently. “How could I ever do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” (Genesis 39:9, NLT)

While in prison, “Joseph noticed the dejected look on [the cupbearer’s and baker’s] faces” (Genesis 40:6, NLT). After being sold by his brothers and then unjustly thrown into prison, Joseph was still showing concern for others. He wasn’t dwelling on how bad his own circumstances were, but was focused on those around him.

Life isn’t Fair!
Just ask Joseph. Yet God calls us to honor Him in our circumstances – whatever they are. And God blesses our obedience. I am impressed by several things beyond Joseph’s steadfast lifestyle. First, by not focusing on what was taken from him or how wrongly he was treated, Joseph’s life wasn’t consumed with bitterness, hatred or any kind of negativity. He accepted his circumstances and glorified God in the midst of them. Secondly, his life, then, was characterized by the blessing he was to others and the blessings he received from God, not by his unjust circumstances. He lived a life that wasn’t fair and he lived in the midst of blessing.

God Gives Wisdom
Phil read the same story I did, but God spoke differently to him. He was impressed that in each situation Joseph found himself, he excelled – because God gave him wisdom beyond human wisdom. God put things into his mind that he had no way of knowing. Sometimes it was the interpretation of a dream and sometimes it was simply knowledge about how to excel in a new position. As Phil meditated on this a bit, he became overwhelmed at the love God has for each of us individually. God treats each of us personally – the God who created the universe speaks to each one of us. We have His undivided attention. Words can’t express the awesomeness of that truth. He loves us! Wow! And beyond loving us, He interacts with us and gives us all we need to live for Him. He impacts our circumstances. He gives us knowledge.

I hope you were blessed by reading about Joseph’s life as much as we were. Let us know what impacted you the most. Comment below or on facebook. Blessings, friends.

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. We’re following a two year plan (2012 and 2013) that has us reading the New Testament each year and the Old Testament stretched over the two years. Each month our reading plans also provide a column titled “Additional.” This column provides readings that will allow you to read through the entire Bible (that is, the complete Old and New Testaments) during the year 2012.

Join the conversation as we read together each month. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. God has treasures for each of us as we read. Let’s share them!

Also, NEW  in 2012 are our RARE bookmarks. Click on the link below to download them. Each bookmark provides two months of Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules and is great for tracking your readings.

Use the tracking method that works best for you – the schedule provided in this blog, the downloadable half-page PDF or bookmark. All provide the same schedule.

Happy treasure seeking, friends!

Download Bookmarks Here Download a PDF of the February Reading Plan Here

Here’s February’s reading plan:

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I love the story of Noah, the Ark and the Flood. Reading it yesterday, I found something I’ve never seen before. But we’ll get to that.

First a reminder of some things I am blessed by every time I read it.

God Shut Them In

13On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark…15Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.
Genesis 7:13, 15-16 (NIV)

God shut them in before the storm waged around them. God shut them in. I love that feeling of protection and care I get every time I read verse 16.

God Remembered Noah

But God remembered Noah and all the animals in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the waters, and the floods began to disappear.
Genesis 8:1 (NLT)

I know that if God remembered Noah, He will remember me. We all face times when it’s easy to believe that God has forgotten us. Don’t believe it! It’s a lie of immense proportions. God remembered Noah. (Actually, He had never forgotten Noah, so I’m convinced the phraseology is purposeful – written just as it is so that I can hang my hopes on it when satan throws lies in my face.)

I blogged about these first two points more extensively here.

Noah Worshiped First

20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.
Genesis 8:20 (NIV)

The first thing that Noah did upon disembarking from the boat that he had spent the last ten and a half months on was worship God. What a powerful example to us. I can imagine how Noah wanted to run and play on hard ground, how he wanted to bask in the sunshine and fresh breeze, how he wanted to roam in open spaces. But first, he worshiped. Lord, help me to worship first.

What also impresses me about this simple verse is that Noah had animals to sacrifice after being at sea for so long. They were among the animals in the ark – when God told Noah what to take in the ark, He included not only all that would be needed to repopulate the world, but also all that would be needed to worship Him! I can trust that when I follow God’s directions, He will provide not only what I need (Noah had what was needed to live for nearly a year in the boat), but will also provide what is needed to accomplish His purposes (in this case, repopulate the world) and enough to worship Him. Now it sounds like I’m putting the worship of God last here. I’m not. Knowing this, I can put worship first and trust that God has already provided enough to meet my needs and accomplish His purposes.

I blogged about this aspect of the story here.

Where Did the Olive Branch Come From?

10Seven days later, Noah released the dove again. 11This time, toward evening, the bird returned to him with a fresh olive leaf in its beak.
Genesis 8:10-11a (NLT)

It never occurred to me before that in order for the dove to return to Noah with the olive branch in its mouth, the Lord must have already repopulated the earth with vegetation. God not only sent the flood, after the flood receded, he reseeded the land and caused the plants to grow in about a week. Maybe a few days more. Wow! What a God we serve! I suppose it’s a little thing, because He had already formed all of creation in a week, but this miracle reminds me that God does things right! He goes above and beyond our expectations. He deposited Noah and his family into a land that would support them while they got settled and prepared for the coming year. I like that God!

My challenge for you over the next few days is to look for places where God has gone above and beyond your expectations. Because that’s just the kind of God He is!

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“When Adam was 130 years old, his son Seth was born, and Seth was the very image of his father.” Genesis 5:3 (NIV)

As I read this verse in our Resting at the River’s Edge reading today, the Holy Spirit whispered into my spirit a question: “Are you the very image of Your Father?”

Oooh…that hurt a little. My answer of course, was no…but I’m working on it. Fortunately, there is never condemnation in His voice. There may be conviction, but it always comes with such love! It also comes not only with an encouragement to be more like Him, but an empowering to make the changes I need to make for it to be so.

So friends, what do you need to do to look more like your Father today?  Looking like our Father has little to do with what we’re wearing (although dressing modestly reflects the Father more than dressing in a way that draws attention to ourselves) as it has more to do with how we live. Have your own conversation with the Holy Spirit. He’ll let you know what changes need to be made to make you the spittin’ image of your Father, and then He’ll empower you to begin making those changes.

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1   To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.
2    A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3    A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to rebuild
4    A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5    A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6    A time to search and a time to lose.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7    A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
8    A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

4But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. 7Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you. Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)

Scripture says that there is “a time for every purpose under heaven.” Under heaven means here on earth. It also says “When the time was right” or “When the fullness of time had come” God sent His son…

When you put those Scripture together, I get excited.

There was a story in the news earlier this year about a study done by the Oxford Dictionary. The Oxford Dictionary is the dictionary to beat all dictionaries. Here in America, when we think of dictionaries, we think of Webster. In London, they think of Oxford. The study identified the 25 most commonly used nouns. The noun that is used more than any other noun is the word “time”. Also in the list of top 25 nouns are year, day, and week. So 4 of the top 25 words relate to time… The world is obsessed with time!

So obsessed that the US Government has two different agencies that are responsible for keeping the “official time” of the United States. Seems to me that one agency would be sufficient.

I think the reason we’re obsessed with time is because we can’t control it. It continues moving forward no matter what we do. Sometimes it seems to move more quickly and sometimes more slowly, but no matter what we do, it continues on.

We try to control it. We talk about managing our time. I googled “time management” and got 43,900,000 hits! Nearly 44 MILLION!

That made me curious, and since searches are so quick and easy, I decided to google just the word “time.” There were more than 14 BILLION references to the word time.

Yes, I’d say we’re obsessed with time.

I think we’re also obsessed with time because we don’t really understand it. Sometimes it seems to move quickly, sometimes it drags. It seems to just disappear sometimes and when we’ve taken an unexpected nap we can become totally disoriented – largely because we can’t figure out what day/time it is.

In all this stress over time, there is reason to rejoice and have peace. Let’s look at some of the things Scripture tells us about time.

1) God exists outside of time. Now I don’t understand what that means or how that happens, I just know that it is. Scripture is clear that God is eternal. That means He existed before time began and he will exist after time ends. There was never a time when He didn’t exist and there will never be a time when he won’t exist.

Isaiah 57:15 says that God  “inhabits eternity” – in other words, He lives in eternity.

In Isaiah 43:13, the Lord Himself says this: “From eternity to eternity I am God.”

Another phrase that you’ll find many times in the Bible is “from everlasting to everlasting.” It’s often used with an exhortation to “praise Him, because He lives from everlasting to everlasting.”

2) God created time.

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Genesis 1:1-5

At the moment God created the first day, He created time as we measure it. The creation continues story by identifying what God did during the first seven days of the existence of time as we know it. Since God created time, we can trust Him with our time. When I am stressed because I have too much to do and too little time, I can take a step back, remember that God created and controls time, and rest in Him.

3) God has a purpose for our time and wants to be involved in our lives.

Did you ever wonder why you were born when you were born? I think girls especially sometimes look at history books and maybe they see the pretty clothes of the Victorian era or some other time and they begin to wish they had lived in another time.

Acts 17 tells us something interesting about the time in which we live:

26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 
Acts 17:26-27

Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is a time to be born and a time to die. This passage says the same thing, but it goes a bit further. It says that God determines the time for us to be born and the time for us to die. He also determined the exact places where we should live. Why? So that we would seek Him and reach out to Him and find Him.

God’s actions throughout history have been aimed at one goal – that we would seek Him; that we would reach out and find Him. It’s so important to God that we have a relationship with Him that He sent His Son to earth. He understood that it can be hard for us to understand what we can’t see. So Jesus said “I’ll go! Send me.” Then He stepped out of eternity and stepped into time.

And that was such a climactic event in all of human history, that time is measured before and after it. We live in the year 2011 AD – in other words, 2011 years after Jesus lived.

4But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. 7Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you. Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)

This passage says that God sent His Son, Jesus, to buy freedom for us so that we could be adopted as God’s own children. And when we are adopted as His own children, everything He has belongs to us.

God’s highest purpose, is to give each of us an opportunity to be adopted as His son or daughter.

Romans 5 explains how that happened:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
Romans 5:6

“At just the right time” Christ “died for us sinners.” You see, even when we find God, we have a problem. That problem is called sin. We have lived our lives apart from God, doing what seemed right to us, not doing what God considered right. There is a punishment due for that sin – a penalty. The penalty, Scripture says, is death. So that we might escape eternal death, Jesus stepped in and said “Father, I’ll die in their place.”

Again, Romans 5:6 says:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
Romans 5:6

The passage continues with one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture:

8But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment. 10For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. 11So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.
Romans 5:8-11

“Now we can rejoice,” Scripture says, because when we believe what Scripture teaches and trust Jesus for our life, God adopts us as His sons and daughters and all that He has is ours. Remember, one of the things He has is eternal life…He lives in eternity. When we trust Jesus, we will live in eternity with God. Yes, He has still appointed a time for us to die, but it’s not an eternal death, it’s merely a crossing from this life into life with God for eternity.

Like I said earlier in this blog, I don’t understand eternity. You know what? That’s OK, because what I do know is that spending eternity with God is a GOOD thing. When my time on this earth is done, when God’s purposes for my life on this earth are accomplished, God has appointed a time for me to die. But He is arranging the events of my life so that I will seek Him and find Him.

When your time on this earth is done, when God’s purposes for your life are accomplished, He has appointed a time for you to die. In the meantime, He’s arranging the events of your life so that you will seek Him and find Him. If you haven’t found Him, I encourage you to continue to seek Him. You can read more about how to find Him here. The time is right! ’Tis the season.

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In our reading in the Old Testament for Resting at the River’s Edge we are making a transition. We finished reading Exodus on Friday. Monday we begin reading Deuteronomy. That’s quite a jump! Let me provide some background.

We’re following a plan that has us reading through the Old Testament over a two year period while reading the whole New Testament each year. Built into the plan in the second year is a second reading of a few foundational Old Testament books:

Genesis – This “Book of Beginnings” provides the creation story, a discussion of the origins of sin, reveals God’s first steps in His plan to overcome the power of sin in people’s lives, and introduces God’s covenant with His people. It provides the very foundation of all that happens after it. It also details the beginning of the history of the Israelites. At the end of the book we find that the Israelites are living in Egypt, having moved there during a famine when Joseph was the Prime Minister. The Israelites were thriving in Egypt.

Exodus – This book takes us through the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, a critical turning point in their history. At the beginning of the book, Joseph and the Pharaoh under which he served have both died. The new Pharaoh recognized that the Israelites were thriving and became afraid of losing his kingdom to them. Consequently, he enslaved them, and their treatment as slaves became increasingly harsh over time. God raised up Moses and Aaron to confront Pharaoh and ultimately rescues the Israelites out of Egypt. The book then records the process of God teaching the Israelites how to worship Him and how to live in community. In the last chapters of the book, we have God giving instructions for building the Tabernacle and the Israelites building it according to those instructions.

Deuteronomy – This book is important because it records three sermons Moses gave shortly before his death. The Israelites have wandered through the wilderness for forty years (recorded in the book of Numbers) and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. Moses will not be going into the Promised land with them. It records Moses’ wisdom and advice to the people before they embark on a tremendous adventure and challenge without him.

We’re in the second year of the reading plan, and have just completed reading Genesis and Exodus. We are skipping over the books of Leviticus (a detailed instruction manual for the priesthood) and Numbers (an account of the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the wilderness). In chapter 27 of Numbers, the Lord begins the process of transitioning the Israelites from wandering through the wilderness to crossing into the Promised Land:

12One day the LORD said to Moses, “Climb to the top of the mountains east of the river, and look out over the land I have given the people of Israel. 13After you have seen it, you will die as Aaron your brother did, 14for you both rebelled against my instructions in the wilderness of Zin. When the people of Israel rebelled, you failed to demonstrate my holiness to them at the waters.” (These are the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)

15Then Moses said to the LORD, 16“O LORD, the God of the spirits of all living things, please appoint a new leader for the community. 17Give them someone who will lead them into battle, so the people of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
Numbers 27:12-17

The book of Numbers finishes with instructions about their first steps into the Promised Land.

On to Deuteronomy
Monday’s reading will be the first two chapters of Deuteronomy. You’ll find Moses on the east bank of the Jordan River. The Promised Land is on the other side of the river. He’ll begin with a history of the Israelites’ journey. He’s not just an old man telling stories. His repetition of history is meant to remind the Israelites (and us) of the goodness of their God throughout the generations and many of the lessons they have learned throughout a long history of following and rebelling against that God.

Now that you’re caught up a bit, enjoy Monday’s reading. And if you haven’t been reading along with us, Monday’s a great place to jump in and join us.

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Moses and the Hebrews

1And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are bound for heaven, think about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s Messenger and High Priest. 2For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully and was entrusted with God’s entire house. 3But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a fine house deserves more praise than the house itself. 4For every house has a builder, but God is the one who made everything.
5Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house, but only as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. 6But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household. And we are God’s household, if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.
– Hebrews 3:1-6

Our February reading will have us read about Moses’ great leadership of the Israelites as God worked through him to bring God’s people out of bondage. We’ll find ourselves almost finishing the entire book of Exodus as we read throughout the month. While reading Exodus we’ll also read the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews was written to the New Testament Israelites. It begins by establishing a point of connection between the Old Testament Israelites and those living when the book was written.

1Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he made the universe and everything in it. 3The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven.
– Hebrews 1:1-3

Let me know what new things God speaks to you as you read these related passages in February. Enjoy!

Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for February is below.

To download a PDF of February’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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27This is the account of Terah.

Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.

31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.

32Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.
Genesis 11:27-32

In Genesis 11, we have the account of Terah, a key person in Jewish history, although he’s only mentioned in twelve verses, five of which are in Genesis 11. He had three sons, Abram, Nahor and Haran. Haran became the father of Lot and then died at a young age. God would later make a tremendous covenant with Abram and rename Abraham.

So we don’t know a lot about Terah. He lived in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans when his sons and grandson Lot were born, but some time after Lot’s father died, Terah packed up the family and set out for Canaan. I’ve often wondered why. What caused him to move? Something motivated Terah to leave Ur. Scripture gives no definitive indication. Three possible sources of motivation come to mind:

  • A desire to remove himself from the wickedness of Ur. It was an exceedingly sinful place. Yet there’s nothing in the text to indicate that Terah was bothered by it.
  • A whispering from the Spirit of God. Scripture says specifically that he left to go to Canaan – perhaps he was sensing a pre-Abrahamic call to the promised land. But Joshua later described Terah as a man who “followed after other gods” and again the narrative doesn’t give us any clues about Terah sensing a call from God.
  • A desire to simply escape the place of his son’s death and move elsewhere. I can’t help but wonder if grief played a part in Terah’s decision to leave. Grief and depression often trigger the escape mechanisms within us. Now to treat the text fairly, we should recognize that it also doesn’t say anything about Terah being overcome with grief.

Terah’s decision to move away from Ur was probably a combination of several motivations, as life decisions frequently are – prompted by things going on around us and God working in us. Which motivation becomes the trigger that thrusts us from our current condition depends greatly on how closely we are walking with the Lord. (I am so glad for Romans 8:28 – He’ll even use the negative to move us toward His plan when we continue to pursue Him.) (See Note1 for another theory on why Terah left Ur.)

I suggest that it may have been grief and depression that triggered Terah’s move because when he reached the halfway point between Ur of the Chaldeans and Cannan he “settled there.” That place was called Haran. I wonder if Terah named the place after his dead son? Perhaps Terah left Ur with the desire to go to a new place of promise, but he somewhere along the way he lost his motivation and settled in a place of mourning his dead son. And there he died himself. (See Note 2 for another theory about why Terah settled in Haran.)

This story suggests a couple of lessons and questions to me:

Lesson 1: Grief (and depression in general) are significant motivation killers. They kill our dreams and ultimately rob us of our lives. When we choose to settle in the place of our loss, depression, sadness or grief, we die there. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am a proponent of grieving when grieving is appropriate. (Click here for all of my blogs on grieving. ) Soon I’ll begin a blog about Psalm 84. It will most likely be a series but will specifically address passing through (not dwelling in) the valley of dry places and tears.

Question 1: Have you settled in the place of grief or depression? Don’t do it! Press on by pursuing God despite how you feel. He will respond. Here’s a blog from 2008 titled Recovering from the Circumstances of Life. It provides some practical suggestions to help you move forward.

Lesson 2: Without a clear calling from God, we are simply wandering through life and will settle anywhere…and we will die without fulfilling our life purposes. There is no indication that Terah had that clear calling. Abram, on the other hand, had a clear calling from God, recorded in Genesis 12:1-4. Terah settled in Haran and died there. Abram packed up his family and “they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.”

Question 2A: Do you have a clear calling from God? Perhaps it isn’t as “grand” as Abram’s call, but do you have a passion that God has put in your heart to pursue? If not, I strongly encourage you to ask Him for one – a passion or calling for this phase of your life. Do what He’s put in your heart to do, but pray, perhaps even fast, for a great vision or mission. Sometimes our calling doesn’t become clear until other circumstances fall into place. In the meantime, occupy yourself with doing what God has instructed you to do and prepare yourself for what is to come.

Question 2B: Are you pursuing what God has put in your heart to do? If not, rearrange your life and begin to do so. In both the Old Testament and the New, people significantly interrupted the flow of their lives to follow God’s command. You can too! You are never too old or too “settled” to pursue new things in God. Abram was 75 when he left Haran. Noah was nearly 600 years old when he began to build the ark. I was 51 years old when I wrote my first blog.

Don’t settle in Haran! Pursue Canaan…God will surely meet you along the way.


Note1: One commentary suggests it was Abram who prompted the move from Ur because Genesis 12:1 is past tense when it says that God “had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country…’” I don’t see any suggestion in the text that it was anyone but Terah’s idea for the family to pack up and move out of Ur.

Note 2: Some commentaries suggest that Terah was old and in ill health by the time he reached Haran and could not continue. Although they have undoubtedly done more research than me, simple math convinces me otherwise. The details are below, but my calculations conclude that Terah would have lived at least 40 years after leaving Ur of the Chaldeans and it would be unusual for him to be in ill health for many years before dying. That means he would not have settled in Haran because he was too ill to continue to Canaan.

Simple math – ignore this paragraph if you don’t care about the aging details! Terah was about seventy when his first son was born, but it’s likely that he was 130 – 135 years old when Abram was born. (Because Abram was 75 years old when he left for Canaan which was some time (presumably not a lot of time) after Terah’s death at the age of 205 (205 – 75 = 130). Add 20-35 years to allow time for Abram to grow and take a wife, and I would estimate Terah at somewhere between 150 and 165 years old. He lived at least another 40 years (perhaps as much as 55) and it would be unusual for him to be in ill health for many years before dying.

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Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
Genesis 6:22

There is so much power in that simple statement. Noah was a man – a human no different from you or me. He lived in a corrupt time – not a lot different from you and me. He did everything just as God commanded him – how different is that from you and me? No waffling. No hedging. No resistance.

God said “I am going to destroy the earth and everyone in it. Build a boat.” Then He elaborated a bit:

17I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.
Genesis 6:17-21

And the amazing thing – amazing to me anyway – is that Noah did “everything just as God commanded him.”

I was listening to a sermon by Tony Evans recently and he made a statement that impacted me. “Our expectations impact our actions.” If we expect that it’s going to rain while we’re out, we take an umbrella. Because I expected to have a business meeting today, I dressed a bit differently and took more care with my hair & makeup than I would on a day when I expect to work alone in my office.

Clearly, Noah must have expected God to be true to His word, because he acted immediately. He started building a boat, undoubtedly causing everyone around him to think he was crazy. But God hadn’t spoken to everyone around Noah. From the description God gives of those around Noah, even if He had spoken to them, they wouldn’t have started to build a boat. Because they had no expectation that God was who He said He was and that He would do what He said He was going to do.

I can’t help but wonder – what are my spiritual expectations? If I work Tony Evans’ statement backwards, we can determine my expectations based on my actions. Do my actions reveal that I believe God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He is going to do? Do my actions reveal that I expect God to move on my behalf? Do my actions reveal that I expect God to deal with me according to my behavior – good or bad?

Noah didn’t have the benefit of a Bible to read. We obviously do. My “Let’s Be PC!” series encourages us to do the things we know God wants us to do. I want to be a Practicing Christian (“PC”) not one in name only. (I took a break from the series over the Christmas season, but will be adding to it soon – what topic would you like me to address?)

Back to my expectations (and yours). Do we live our lives as if we expect God to be true to His promises and His Word? Or do we live our lives our own way and hope God will bless it? Like Paul, I’m not there yet, but I keep pressing on to live according to God’s Word.

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on… 13…I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

Why would I (or anyone) not want to do as Paul did? Yes, life is hard, and yes, pursuing God brings us to the attention of our adversary, satan…but to not pursue God puts me in a place of dealing with life in this fallen world without the nearness of a loving Savior and the blessings He promises to those who follow His plan for their lives.

“Practical Atheists” is a term used to describe people who say they believe in Christ but whose actions are more consistent with those who don’t believe at all. I’d rather be a PC than a PA!

God gives us the tremendous freedom and responsibility of free will. At each step in our journey, we have the opportunity to choose practical atheism or Christianity. At each challenge we can be obedient to pursue God’s way (and accompanying blessing) or act according to our own “wisdom” and desires.

I want to be like Noah and do everything God commands. I want to be like Paul and press on to win the prize (which is Christ, Himself). How about you? Will you join me in pursuing God throughout 2011? There’s plenty of room in the boat!

Lord, may my actions reveal that my expectations are consistent with all You have promised in Your Word. Where my expectations fall short, reveal Yourself to me anew so that I might know you better.

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