The world is not okay. COVID-19 has hit us all like…well…..a plague. Nothing is the same as it was a month ago, at least in the U.S. Our economy is threatened, lives are lost at an alarming rate, and the majority of us are stuck in our homes because we are loyal to the authorities and experts. It’s historical. It’s confusing. It’s challenging. It’s……….rather odd.
Yet in the midst of all of this, many of us are trying to grasp to the “old” world order we took for granted. It didn’t take long for Zoom’s stock to skyrocket like my blood pressure did when I found out we were having a third baby. Video conferencing daily is not uncommon, and “virtual church” isn’t just a term used by lifechurch.tv folks. Each of us is trying to readjust to this phenomenon, while also trying to deal with the oddity of the walls of our homes seemingly inching closer and closer together like a trash compactor beneath the detention level of the original Death Star (side note- I predict big things for the home real estate market at the end of this thing). For me, I am attempting to commit to this blog. Like many of us, I want to be productive during our forced house-arrest. I thought resurrecting a short-lived blog would be a good start. Also, I thought a weekly reflection on the chapter of Genesis our church is studying would be another way to stay virtually connected with others. We’ve been spending this year going through the first book of the Bible, mostly spending one week on each chapter. It has been a wonderful journey, and I didn’t want the fire to die down while we are social distancing.
This brings us to Genesis 12 (If you are reading this and haven’t yet read Genesis 12, go do so before reading any further. If you haven’t watched my March 29th sermon on the North Lake Church’s Facebook page, I would encourage you to do so now, or shortly after reading through this post). Though it is not the beginning of the book of Genesis, it is a beginning of sorts. Genesis 12 is when readers are introduced to Abram (later identified as Abraham). Those familiar with Judeo-Christianity are quick to recognize this significant figure in the faith’s historical narrative. He is, of course, “father” Abraham many of us have sung about when we were young and impressionable children in VBS or Sunday School. He is God’s chosen vessel, to whom He establishes a unique covenant of patronage and blessings. It is Abram through which God, in His divine providence and foreknowledge, chose to begin a nation of His “people,” later to be identified as the ancient nation of Israel. Here, though, we are only given the beginning of Abram’s story. At what a beginning it was. A beginning full of divine blessings through faithful obedience (the theme of my sermon on Sunday). A beginning that also provides a difficult story of morality and obedience in the second half of the chapter (a major topic of conversation at our virtual Wednesday night small group).
As I reflect on Genesis 12, my attention is drawn to one particular aspect of Abram’s beginning- God’s decision to uniquely choose Abram as the recipient of blessings. This sort of “favoritism” makes my 21st century, westernized mind stomp my foot and claim “not fair” like a spoiled millennial who didn’t get his participation trophy. Why does Abram get special favor? Why does Pharoah (read the chapter!) get cursed because of Abram’s lie? This doesn’t seem like the all-loving, all-righteous God I know.
To be fair, I am right to have this initial perspective. As Jeremiah 31:31-34, the coming of Christ, the day of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel of the New Testament, and passages like Romans 1:16 teach us, we are all given the opportunity to be in a covenantal relationship with God. Such a perspective makes chapters like Genesis 12 difficult to read. Aren’t we all equal in God’s eyes? Am I less important than Abram to God?
As I reflect further, I am reminded of something very important. God knows what He is doing. What may look like divine favoritism to my ignorant narrow-minded POV, is far more purposeful. God knew exactly what He was doing when He made that covenant with Abram. God knew exactly what was happening when Abram chose to go to Egypt and lie about his relationship with Sarai. God is not surprised by this. God has complete and utter intentionality in all He does. How else do you think Father Abraham had so many sons? How else am I one of them (and so are you)? Because God knows what He is doing. God meant it when he made those covenantal promises of Genesis 12:1-3. And he meant it even knowing what was to come in the life of Abram.
This is an assuring thought.
Of all the infinite possibilities of God’s relationship with us and His creation, this is the one that is real. This is the one that has God’s hands wrapped around it, establishing the steps of man as described in Proverbs 16:9. Though another reality may have a Sinbad genie movie called Shazaam , this actual and true reality consists of God choosing Abram as his covenantal partner in providing His good and perfect will to His people yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is through this covenant that all of us get the opportunity to know of scripture’s truth, including the ever-important Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is good. This is right. This is God’s intention.
In times of COVID-19, and in times without it, God knows what He is doing. Nothing about this broken world comes as a surprise to Him. And like Abram, we are all called to faithful obedience.