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Showing posts from March, 2012

God calls Moses to answer the prayers of the people

Background: In Egypt the Hebrew people groaned to God, praying for a savior from slavery. They did not know that God had been preparing Moses for that job ever since his birth. But then, neither did Moses! From the start, Moses knew the love of godly parents in a godly home. In early childhood, he learned how to get around the palace of his adoptive grandfather, Pharaoh. He learned of the important political and cultural events in Egypt and experienced the academic excellence available to him as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses had surely seen how leaders lead, too, and, during his years of exile, he learned, as a shepherd, how to get wayward, frightened sheep to follow him through the desert terrain. What more could he possibly need? God. Moses did not yet know that, but God did, and God took the responsibility of responding to Moses before Moses even knew to call on God. Amazing! But that’s how it often works. So how did God get Moses’ attention? God set fire t

God hears groans as prayers

Background: After the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph into slavery, many years went by before a famine brought the family together again in Egypt. Ironically, the famine also brought many native Egyptians into slavery under the rule of Joseph, who had risen to the position second only to Pharaoh. Whether this enslaved the Twelve Tribes of Israel is not clear. Regardless, the Hebrew people remained in Egypt long after the famine had passed because, 400 years later, they were still there! By then Joseph had long been forgotten, and God’s people were slaves for sure. In fact, conditions had become so terribly cruel that the firstborn son in every family was killed. According to the familiar story in Exodus 2, though, Moses’ mother placed her beautiful child in a waterproof basket and set him afloat on the Nile River. When Pharaoh’s daughter found him, she sent Miriam – Moses’ sister – to look for a nurse among the Hebrew women, and the girl brought her mother to care for her ow

Joseph, Judah, and an unusual prayer

Background: Jacob (Israel) had one daughter and a dozen sons. Of the twelve, Joseph was clearly the favorite and everyone knew it, including Joseph. Eventually, the brothers got tired of his spying and tattling on them but were probably even wearier of being ignored and undervalued by a father prone toward favoritism. The older brothers had had it with the little prince, whom their dad dressed in a colorful coat with long sleeves totally unsuitable for work! But, instead of killing the kid, as Cain would have done, they sold Joseph into slavery. The familiar story begins in Genesis 37 and keeps going until Exodus while Joseph continues to have faith that God favored him. Not so with Judah, who winds up with two sons so wicked that God took them out of the family line! After his wife also dies, Judah is seduced by a woman he thinks is a prostitute but is really the widow of both of his sons! In high contrast, the beloved Joseph refuses advances from his master’s wife, keeping hi

Jacobs wrestles an angel and becomes Israel

Background: When Jacob fled from home after wrestling his father’s blessing from Esau, he vowed to worship God if everything happened as promised. It did, of course, since God does not and cannot lie. However, many years went by before Jacob felt free to go home. After the long journey began, God sent angels to greet Jacob. In turn, Jacob sent his servants to meet, greet, and make peace with his older twin brother Esau of whom he was greatly afraid (Genesis 32:7.) To protect himself and his family, Jacob divided the people and livestock into two camps, thinking that, if Esau destroyed one, the other would be able to escape. (Genesis 32:8.) Then Jacob prayed: “ O, LORD God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, You told me, ‘Return to your land and the place of your birth, and I will do well for you.’ But LORD, I am not worthy of the least of Your mercies or of Your truth which You have fulfilled for me, Your servant. With only my walking stick, I passed over the Jordan R

Blessing, vow, pledge, and promise

“Isaac called for Jacob, blessed him, and said, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman but hurry to the house of your grandfather in Paddan-aram and marry one of your uncle Laban’s daughters. May God Almighty bless you with many children, and may your descendants become many nations. May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings promised to Abraham, and may you possess this land where you now live as a stranger, for God gave this land to Abraham,” Genesis 28:1-4. After getting the family blessing he had deceptively wangled from his twin brother Esau, Jacob obeyed his father and set off on a journey of a few hundred lonely miles to find a wife. And so, “Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. Before sunset he arrived at a good place to stop for the night and set up camp. When he found a stone for a pillow, Jacob lay down to sleep, and as he slept, he dreamed of a ladder (or stairway) reaching from earth to heaven with angels of God going up and down. At the top of the

Praying for purpose, praying for peace

“This records the family of Isaac, the son of Abraham: When Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife because she had no children. The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins. When the two children struggled in her womb, she asked the Lord why this was happening, and the Lord told her, ‘The sons in your womb will become two rival nations. One nation will be stronger than the other, and your older child will serve the younger,” Genesis 25:19-23. Questions: With whom or what do you struggle? Is your old self struggling with your new self in God? Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, looking back at old ways and looking forward to new is like carrying twin thoughts that fight within me! Help me, Lord, to move forward into Your plan and purpose for my life with no fears and no regrets. Thank You for giving Your prayers, Yo

Getting very specific in prayer

Background: Long after Abraham prayed for God to favor Ishmael, he and his wife Sarah brought up their son Isaac to become the heir whom God had named. Sometime before the young man turned thirty, his mother died and was buried in a cave that Abraham had purchased at full price near Mamre (also known as Hebron) in the land of Canaan. Despite the family ties to that area, Abraham did not want his son to marry a Canaanite woman. He was so adamant in fact that he made his chief servant swear to go to Abraham’s homeland and find Isaac a wife among their own kin. The servant gave no objection to the request but showed concern for the success of his mission. When he asked Abraham what to do if no woman wanted to come home with him to meet Isaac, his master said, “The LORD God of heaven will send an angel before you,” Genesis 24:7-8. Abraham further assured the man that, if God did not take care of everything, the chief servant would be released from his oath. The man promised to obey his

God tells Abraham to pray for the person he had wronged

Background: Abraham’s wife Sarah had the kind of beauty that turned heads. Since Abraham feared he would be killed on her account and Sarah taken, he told everyone she was his sister, which, like most lies, had some basis of truth. They did indeed have the same father but different mothers, and so they had gotten married. This meant, of course, that Sarah was no longer free to marry someone else, but Abraham left out that important piece of information. As they traveled into Gerar, Abraham introduced his wife to the king of the region as his sister. That night King Abimelech ordered the beautiful woman to be brought to his palace, but before anything could happen, God appeared to Abimelech in a dream, letting him know that Sarah was already married. Since the king had not slept with her yet, he protested, reminding God of his innocence and Abraham’s deception. In the dream, God responded, telling Abimelech to return Sarah to her husband and His prophet Abraham would pray for the k

Lot prays for a place to run and hide

Background: The people of Sodom had become so ungodly that God did not find even ten upright citizens throughout the entire city! Although Abraham’s nephew and family lived there, Lot may have sensed that he did not belong, or maybe he hoped to change the current conditions. Regardless of his reasons, he was sitting at the main gate – the traditional hang-out for city leaders – when he saw the approach of two of the angels who had just visited Abraham and Sarah. Immediately, Lot hopped up, eager to offer the visitors fresh water, food, and a place of rest as, unbeknown to him, his uncle Abraham had done earlier. The angelic beings agreed, but later that evening, all of the men in Sodom – young and old – gathered around Lot’s house and demanded that he send out the two visitors, but instead, Lot came out– one man against the whole crowd. Trying to reason with the unreasonable mob, he begged, “Oh, please, brothers! Do not give my visitors such terrible treatment!” “Man!” the angry

Can one prayer make a difference in places like Sodom and Gomorrah?

Background: During the heat of the day Abraham sat by the door to his tent, shaded by the oaks of Mamre. Suddenly he saw three men appear out of nowhere! Jumping to his feet, Abraham hurried to greet the unexpected guests and offer precious water for them to drink and bathe while his wife Sarah prepared a fine meal. When the men (or, more likely, angels) finished eating, they delivered a message from God, saying the elderly couple would give birth to a son within a year. Sarah laughed to herself at the thought, but one of the visitors heard and asked, “ Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Rising to leave, the heavenly beings looked on the city of Sodom. Outcries from there and Gomorrah screamed of the need for something to be done about unjust, perverse, and perverted ways. As the angels headed toward Sodom, God remained with Abraham, telling him what to expect: “And Abraham came near and asked, ‘Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose fifty righteous p

God and Abraham pray for Ishmael and Isaac

Background: Again and again, God promised Abram he would become the father of many nations, yet this usually strong man of faith and his wife, Sarai, made their own arrangements in order to make God’s promise come true! As Genesis 16 records the story, Sarai urged Abram to follow the custom of the day and have children with her maid Hagar so the couple would have an heir. When this had been accomplished and Hagar knew she had a child on the way, she began to look down on her mistress, which did not go over too well with Sarai. In Genesis 17 God gave Abram a new name – Abraham, which means the father of many. God also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, which, interestingly, means princess. With the blessing of God resting on Abraham, however, God could not and did not forget Hagar. When Sarah mistreated the servant girl, Hagar ran away until an angel of the Lord came to her and told her to go home and submit to Sarah’s authority. “And the angel said, ‘You will give birth to a son, an

God and Abraham have a candid conversation

“The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Fear not, Abram. I AM your shield, and your reward shall be exceeding great.’ "And Abram said, ‘Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I have no child but my steward, Eliezer of Damascus? Since You have given me no seed, the person born in my house is my only heir.’ "And the word of the LORD came again, saying, ‘This shall not be your heir, but he who comes from your own loins shall be your heir.’ Then the LORD brought Abram outdoors and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars if you can number them. That’s how many descendants you will have.’ "And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted this as righteousness. Then the LORD said, ‘I AM the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to inherit.’" Genesis 15:1-7. God talked with Abram and told him His plans, but even in a dream or vision, Abram would not have heard any of this unless he had listened. But he did

Melchizedek: A priest prays for Abraham

Background: When Abram heard that his nephew Lot had been captured by the joint forces of four kings, he rounded up 318 men from his servants and set out to rescue his brother’s son. Abram not only accomplished this military feat, he also freed the people and possessions taken from their homes in Sodom and Gomorrah. Afterward, the king of Sodom came out to greet the returning hero in the Kings’ Valley and told him to keep the things belonging to the people of his town, but Abram refused. As he explained, he did not want anyone thinking the king of Sodom had made him rich! At some point during this conversation, the Bible reports that the priest-king of Salem also came out to meet Abram, bringing bread and wine. No one knows anything about the ancestry of this priest-king to whom the fifth chapter of Hebrews later refers as “a priest forever.” Regardless, the man came from an area whose name stems from the Hebrew word “Shalom,” meaning “peace.” “Melchizedek, the king of Salem and
Background: After Adam and Eve, after Cain and Abel, after the third generation of humankind began calling on the name of the Lord, many, many centuries passed. Heavenly beings did whatever they wanted, creating chaos and, quite possibly, mythological creatures (Genesis 6:1-4.) Human beings did whatever they wanted, and their relationships with God and one another deteriorated (Genesis 6:5.) The whole universe had gotten into an unbearable, terrible mess! Within this scene of deterioration and depravity, Noah stood out like a bright light of righteousness. God noticed, of course, and came to Noah with a plan and a promise. As Genesis 7-8 recorded, God used a flood to wipe out everything and start over with Noah, his family, and every animal on earth. After the floodwaters had dried, Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice to God (Genesis 8:20.) If he prayed to God or praised and thanked God for protecting and saving him and his family, the Bible did not say. Instead Genesis

First Bible prayer or first complaint?

Background: In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had communion and fellowship with God similar to conversational prayer. Since they had everything they could possibly need and more, they did not ask for anything, but when they disobeyed God, everything changed. Even then, however, the Bible does not mention their asking God for forgiveness, maybe because they did not! Regardless, the couple left the Garden as God commanded, and, outside of Eden, they eventually had a family. The Bible does not say what Adam and Eve told their children about God as they were growing up, but for some reason, both sons thought they needed to give God a gift, perhaps to get back into the Garden or into God’s good graces. At any rate, Cain offered some of the produce from his garden, while Abel gave the very best of his flock. God accepted Abel’s gift, but not Cain’s off-hand offering, which infuriated the man so much that he killed his younger brother. God then confronted Cain, who responded with the r

Calling on the Name of the Lord

“Adam and his wife had another son, whom they named him Seth (i.e., given) because, as they said, `God has given us a son to take the place of Abel, whom his brother Cain has killed.’ Then, when Seth had a son, he named him Enosh. And at that time people began to call on the Name of the LORD,” Genesis 4:25-26. After the Fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden… After disobedience, blame, and denial ruined a perfect world… After the first jealous rage led to murder… After one brother killed another… After a new start and a new family began in the God-given son of Seth... People began to call on the Name of the Lord. Question: Do I sometimes take a while to call on God? Why? Prayer: Dear LORD God, Who Gives and Restores, help me to call on You before I fall. If I forget, please remind me. Help me to stay attuned to You and readily hear and respond as You call my name. ~~ © 2012, Mary Sayler , all rights reserved.