7. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph: Keeping Our Eyes on the Promise

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By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones. ~Hebrews 11:20-22

Isaac

The God of the Living blessed Isaac according to his father’s blessing, and because of it, Isaac knew a fruitful life. He and Rebekah had heard the tale of What God had promised Abraham concerning his offspring. Isaac was the beginning of that offspring. Could you imagine being the first son among innumerable children? Isaac’s life had already been given back to him, and so now all he had to do was wait, and keep walking with God, enjoying His bounty and thanking him.

Now Isaac favored Esau, but with a little finagling according to the predetermined plan of God, at the end of Isaac’s life, Jacob got the greater portion of the blessing. And all Isaac needed to do was just keep living according to the promise. The nobly simple life of the first son of Abraham is an example of resting in the continuous stream of God’s faithfulness to His promise. God had chosen to bless Abraham forever, and there was nothing Isaac could do about it, except pass the blessing on to the next generation.

Jacob

Faith in the life of Jacob has been hard for some to find. After all, he got much of his wealth, blessing, and advantage by tricking other people out of theirs. Indeed, what wealth and advantage did he seek to gain from God?

At Bethel, after Jacob slept on a stone, and saw the angels and God in his dream, Jacob made a vow to God. “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” ~ Genesis 28:20–22.

I have often wondered why God wanted to “back this horse in the race” so to speak. I mean he had promised Abraham, and this was two generations, and already we’ve got a conniving swindler and deal-broker. Where is Faith in this? Why is God called the God of Abraham, Isaac, AND Jacob?

I think the answer lies in the encounter Jacob had with God, as a result of which he leaned on his staff in worship. When he wrestled with God in Genesis 32, he refused to let go of the Angel until He had blessed him. He laid hold of God until God gave him what he wanted. This is the kind of faith that is worth learning from. The story of Jacob is about God materially blessing him, and making good on the vow-deal Jacob had made in faith that God was faithful to do what He had promised. And once Jacob returns to the land of his father, he erects the altar to Yahweh as his own God, and takes on the name God has given him.

Joseph

The stories of Joseph are told in such a way as to inspire people with his faithfulness to God when going through extreme difficulty– how he faced his brothers and Potiphar’s wife, and prison, but got elevated to the second highest place in all the land! Surprisingly, this is not the lesson of faith this passage is seeking to teach. It’s rather about the bones being carried out of Egypt. What could be the purpose of this seemingly trivial thing in light of all Joseph went through?

Faith doesn’t just look back at the glory days, or consider the victories for the present only, but faith looks forward and gives direction to those about to walk the next league of the journey so they too can keep in line with the promise. This is the lesson of faith learned from Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Faith is a larger commitment than the short time we live on this earth. The real task for many of us is to nail our own faith down during this lifetime by grappling with God as Jacob did, and resting in it as Isaac did. And when it comes time to pass it on to the next generation, we must keep our eyes on the Promises of God, so that the generation to come may See Him who is Unseen by looking at our lives to help them understand the mystery of their own.

Application:

  1. Keep track of your story: how you got here, and where you’re headed.
  2. Rest in full assurance of faith and communicate that to all whom God has given you to continue your journey.
  3. Grapple with God to accomplish His desire. And you be fully assured of his presence with you, and power to work in you.
  4. Pass your faith on to the next generation. This can look like passing on inheritance to your children, or telling them how God has worked in your life to get you here. Specifics really help, because a lot of youngsters these days need to hear the hard-core details about how God got you through your own self-made nightmares, and still proved to be good. Remember it’s a story about Him, not you. It is the sober reality of our failures and God’s salvation that makes up the most profound heritage one can leave to one’s children. Then, they too will know what promises to keep their eyes on.
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The Secret to Slowing Time

Now that I am exiting another stage of life, Time has locked into high gear for me. Days are an afterthought. Weeks gone in a blink. In a flash the months are past. I anticipate time will only continue to accelerate.

I know time hasn’t budged. It continues to grind at the same pace it has with a few variations of years being seconds longer or shorter. I know the change is within me. What has caused me to feel time has sped up?

I believe I have found the brake pedal and the gas pedal for time. Why do children feel like every day is an eternity, and most adults feel like it is a blur? This equation helped me find the answer:

Requirements speed up time
Retirements slow it down

Ask any retired person, their days crawl by just like a child’s does. When in the working world however, our time is being poured out into the mold of those who require things of us. Our present is thinned to a narrow strip between what just happened and what is needing to happen in the next minutes.

Present time is the greatest gift we have: and the celebration of that present gift is rest. Responsibly rejecting the requirements of a person for a time, and enjoying the gift of doing nothing of required consequence allows a person to be real with themselves, and most importantly with God. This is what makes rest an act of worship which just happens to be prescribed in the Ten Commandments.

Think about it: Why do you work? Why do you do anything? Is it not a reflection of your belief about the God who you worship? If you believe God is always working, then you will never give yourself a break. If however, your design is patterned after a God who rests occasionally, should that not inform your decisions concerning your own rest?

Genesis 2:2–“On the seventh day God rested.”

The Lord has made us after the pattern of His likeness with eternity in our hearts. It is Eternity that we step into whenever we rest from our labor. The silence, the stillness, the sweet release of tension– These are the gift of God to a body worn down by time’s millstone march.

This Christmas season, take time to rest. Enjoy the gift of eternity that God has given you, and see what your heart is just waiting to release as part of the tension you have built up over time.

This post was a result of resting.

A Return to Rest

That kindness we do ourselves
When we echo what reality serves
In etching out the dream-eral* expanse
Of a sort of discovery you don’t know exists

I enjoy games like Myst: Riven
Where the puzzles all make sense
And where the hours tick slowly clicking
To find my way back home where I belong

It’s what my soul wants most of all
To see Him, to be held in His embrace
And every time I attempt to scratch the page
I feel it scratching back with honesty exchanged

Can a canon fire into the night
And not explode where it landed?
A thousand voices echo in one chorus
While my own voice must remain authentic.

A brisk and dismal wind tears comfort far away
From the ever watchful peace that guards my heart
A wind of many swirling truths all clamoring to be heard
When one speaks louder than any strange or English word.

Alas the earth does moan beneath me
It’s song, a dirge that still rises up in hope
A hope that sees the beginning and the end
And indefinitely shoots at that target He intends

Can wings bear aloft this coil?
Can dust breathe life back into itself?
Is there any way life can still continue on
Unless the way is paved with living stones?

The Devil knows the power we underestimate
The power of the good coming to those who rest
In the faith-full assurance of the kindness of a Savior
Who calls, “Be yourself. It’s all  creatures of I AM can do.”

A burning bubbles up from satisfaction
Rejecting too much pleasure without rest
The soul must find its peace in One who works
And who took a day off to enjoy what He had made.

*Ephemeral and Dream are combined here into dream-eral

How to Catch a Muse

Last night, I was talking with a friend who was bemoaning a lack of inspiration she felt in her craft-making. I wrote this this morning as an encouragement for her.


How to Catch a Muse
For C. Cook

How can a candle hold the flame?
How can a nest hatch the bird?
How can a pot harness the steam?
How can a poet harmonize the right word?

A wick is dipped in holy oils
Encased in flexible diligence
It bends only to the heat that boils
That melts away wax with effulgence

A mother lays her shell-bound young
In a nest compiled of twigs she recovered
But the warmth of her patience and slow-breath’ed lung
Is what nurtures the egg, ‘til new life is uncovered

A mouth speaks life in word and song
But silence and stillness seals up the dream
To stay and build up strength like steam
That Cooks the heart that suffers long

A rule can be broken for the love that predates it
A word may be chosen for the ear that awaits it.
The prize of the truth may be won by a sower.
Who plants truth in his heart, and pens love flowing o’er

For a flame, like a soul and a heart and a love
Share this common resemblance to the Maker above:
Just as pure and consuming, as living and free
And as one as His image bearer proves Him to be.