Wednesday, June 29, 2011

God Provides ...Again

In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his oldest, most trusted servant to find a wife for his son Isaac.  He commands this servant to go to Abraham's homeland to find this wife and not to choose a wife for his son from among the Canaanites.  This naturally raises a question for Abraham's servant:  "What if the women doesn't want to come with me?  Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?".  Abraham's response is adamant. He knows that God called him from that land.  His son must not go back there.  Instead, Abraham trusts that an angel of God will go with his servant and insure the proper outcome.  If the woman will not come back with him, then Abraham says that the servant would be released from his oath.

Interestingly, there is no mention of this angel of the Lord anywhere in the rest of the story.  In fact, there is no real action by God narrated in this story.  God is mentioned numerous times by the individuals in the story.  Abraham's servant prays to God before meeting Rebekah and then thanks God afterward.  He testifies to Laban about God's faithfulness to Abraham.  Laban and Bethuel agree that God has been active in these events.  But nowhere in this chapter are God's actions described by the narrator.  We are not explicitly told that God speaks, acts, or sends an angel anywhere in this story even though all the characters in the story seem to assume these things.

I appreciate that a story like this one is included in our scripture.  I appreciate it because it is just so mundane, so everyday, so seemingly human.  The story takes place in the space where most of us live most of our lives; among everyday concerns and motives.  This is in sharp contrast to the story we heard just last week from Genesis 22.  That story, in which God commands Abraham to kill his own son, is exceptional and dramatic.  It is anything but mundane.  It's point may be easy enough to understand but its drama difficult to wrap our minds around because it is so "other", so different from our everyday experience.  How can we really comprehend what was commanded of Abraham?

But as different as these two stories are, they share a common theme.  In both, the Lord provides.  In one, God provides through the dramatic and timely intervention of his angel.  In the other, God provides in ways so subtle that they are not even narrated.  Even though God's actions are not narrated, we are clearly meant to assume that God is at work in what could appear to be merely human actions.  The same Abraham who trusted God in the drama of nearly sacrificing his own son also trusts God to provide a family and a future for that son.

I appreciate stories like this because I am thankful that God can be involved in the everyday routines of our lives just as much as the dramatic incidents.  Everyone loves to hear a story full of drama and suspense and those stories are often formative for our faith.  But if our faith had to be constantly one moment of crisis after another in order to draw closer to God, we would all wear out pretty fast.

Of course, this doesn't negate what I talked about last week.  God doesn't stop being a God of risk just because he is also involved in the mundane.  The God who provides a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24 is the same God who called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22.  God hasn't stopped calling Abraham to risk and trust in just two chapters.  Its just that this risk and trust doesn't always come in the form of sacrificing one's son...or a call to be a missionary to Africa...or to suffer persecution in the name of Christ (though we must never forget that our calling includes these kinds of things as well; we can't have Genesis 24 without Genesis 22). Sometimes this risk comes in the form of trusting that God's grace will be enough to keep our children from inheriting every weakness we exhibit as parents.  Sometimes it means trusting that there will be enough time in an incredibly busy week even if we will be faithful in setting aside time for prayer and study.  And sometimes it means shutting down your computer and walking across the street to check on a urging from God I've been ignoring for some time now... so with that, may the Lord provide.

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