Mourning sun

Three travelers arrived at Job’s camp under the same half-moon. When they had heard of their friend’s troubles, they came to offer consolation, and if warranted, counsel.

Eliphaz, a relative of Esau, traveled from Teman. Bildad, descending from Abraham’s union with Keturah, came from Shuah. And Zophar was a Canaanite from the city of Naamath.

When they saw Job’s dwelling from a distance, they hardly recognized the figure sitting alone in the ashes. As they drew nearer to the tormented shell of a man they once knew, Eliphaz wept, Bildad took dirt from the ground and poured it over his head, and Zophar tore his robes.

As the sun descended over the mountain, they each took a seat with Job, fellow companions of his sorrow. For seven days, no one spoke a word.

Then, Job broke the silence.

“Curse the day I was born. Blot out forever the day I was conceived. Why didn’t I just die at birth? I’d rest in the company of good kings and wise men, where prisoners escape bondage, the small are great, the slave is free, and all are accepted and safe from evil. The wicked don’t bother the dead.

“Why do we who seek the grave more earnestly than buried treasure, have to live? How I long for the grave! The activities of life are useless when God withholds his acceptance.”

Inspiration: Job 2,3     

New home

Abraham’s faithful servant and his men had their fill of food and wine, and in the morning they prepared to leave. Laban and the girl’s mother said, “Let Rebekah wait at least ten days. Then she can go to meet Isaac.”

“Don’t make me wait,” the man said. “God has made my journey a success, and now I must get back.”

“Let’s call Rebekah in,” Laban replied, “and ask what she wants to do.”

Rebekah said she was ready and willing to go, so they gave their blessing. “May you become thousands upon thousands of people, and may your descendants conquer the world!”

Rebekah, her maids, and her nurse all mounted their camels and followed Abraham’s servant with his men toward the horizon.

Isaac had recently returned to his home in the Negev from Beerlahairoi and was meditating in the field one evening. Looking up, he noticed a caravan of camels approaching.

When Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac, she hurriedly dismounted and said to the servant of Abraham, “Who is that man coming toward us?”

The servant answered, “It’s my master’s son.”

Rebekah veiled her face upon Isaac’s approach, and the servant relayed to him everything that had transpired in his absence.

Isaac brought Rebekah into his deceased mother’s tent, and they were married. Isaac was forty years old at this time, and he found comfort in Rebekah’s arms.

In the meantime, Abraham married Keturah and had several children by her. Although he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines, he sent them all away toward the east. To Isaac, he gave everything he owned.

Abraham lived for a hundred and seventy-five years. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him with his wife Sarah in the cave that he had purchased from Ephron.

After Abraham died, God blessed Isaac, who settled in Beerlahairoi.

Inspiration: Genesis 24, 25

Suitable bride

God blessed Abraham and everything he touched, but as he approached death in his old age, something weighed heavily on his mind.

He called for his most trusted servant and said, “Promise me in the presence of God that you’ll not choose a wife for my son here in Canaan. Instead, find her from among my kinsmen in my country.”

“What if she refuses to come back with me,” the servant said. “Will I have to bring Isaac to her?”

“No,” Abraham said. “It’s important he never goes back to my old country. God himself led me out of my father’s house, out from my birthplace, and he promised that the land of Canaan would belong to my family.”

He continued, “An angel from God will prepare the way for you and make your mission a success. If the maiden isn’t willing to come back with you, I release you from your promise. Whatever happens, don’t take my son back to my old country.”

Abraham’s servant promised to do what his master said. He prepared ten camels, packed up an assortment of excellent gifts from his master’s store, and set out for the city of Nahor.

As evening approached, Abraham’s servant had the camels kneel by a well on the outskirts of town. “O God of Abraham,” he said, “give me success today and bestow favor upon my master. As the daughters of the city come to draw water, I’ll say, ‘Please offer me a drink from your vessel.’ If one says, ‘Have a drink, and I’ll give your camels a drink, too,’ let her be the appointed one for Isaac.”

Before he had finished praying, Rebekah, granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor, approached with a water pot mounted on her shoulder. She was a beautiful virgin.

After she filled her pot, the servant said, “Please let me take a sip from your vessel.”

“Drink, master,” she replied and lowered the pot for him to drink. Then she said, “I’ll water your camels as well.” She made quick work of the watering troughs, pouring water into each for the camels.

The servant stood in stunned silence, assessing whether or not God had so quickly made way for the promise he had made to his master.

Inspiration: Genesis 24

Sarah’s burial

At a hundred and twenty-seven years old, Sarah died at Hebron. Abraham sat by her bedside and mourned. Then he went to the Hittites and said, “I know I’m a stranger here, but sell me a plot so I can bury my wife on my own land.”

A Hittite representative said, “Master, you’re a great prince. We wouldn’t withhold even the best of our burial grounds.”

Abraham bowed and said, “If you’re willing, let me talk to Ephron, Zohar’s son. I’d like to buy the cave of Machpelah at the end of his field. With you as a witness, I’ll pay full price.”

Ephron was present among those with Abraham, and he said, “No, master, listen to me. The field is yours along with its cave. As my people are my witnesses, it’s yours. Go, bury your wife.”

Abraham bowed again before the Hittites and, looking squarely at Ephron, said, “I’m paying full price, and that’s final.”

Ephron answered, “Okay, master. What’s four hundred pieces of silver among friends? Pay me and go bury your wife.”

Abraham agreed to the price, paid the man according to the current exchange rate, and took possession of the field, along with all its vegetation, which was located east of Mamre. He buried Sarah in the cave facing Hebron in the land of Canaan.

Inspiration: Genesis 23

God provides

One day, God dealt Abraham an untenable command. “Take Isaac, whom you love, and offer him as a human sacrifice on a mountain I’ll show you in Moriah.”

Abraham got up early from a restless night’s sleep and woke his son. He saddled a donkey and cut up some wood for a burnt offering. Taking a couple of servants with him, Abraham and his son headed north for Moriah. After three days of travel, he looked out and saw the place God had designated for the altar.

“Stay here with the donkey and supplies,” Abraham told his servants. “Isaac and I will go up, worship, and then return.” Abraham gave the wood to his son, while he carried the lighted firepot and the knife. They walked together up the steep hill to the place of worship.

“Father,” Isaac called out as they walked along. “We have fire and wood, but where is the lamb for our offering?”

“God himself will bring the lamb, son,” Abraham said, a lump welling in his throat. They continued to walk on together. “God always provides for the faithful.”

When they reached the right spot, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood accordingly. Next, he bound his son and lifted him up onto the platform.

Abraham brought the sharp knife close to the boy’s throat for a quick, clean cut, and with tears searing his face, an angel from God called out from the sky. “Abraham!”

Abraham halted, the knife tremoring in his hand. “Here I am,” he ejaculated.

“Don’t harm the boy in any way,” he answered. “I know now that you fear God since you’ve withheld nothing you treasure.”

Abraham cut the cords that bound his son and wiped the tears from his bloodshot eyes. He looked up and spotted a ram, its horns tangled in a thicket. Taking the animal, he put it onto the woodpile in place of his son and offered it up as a sacrifice to God.

For the remainder of the time they worshiped on the mountain, and neither Abraham nor Isaac spoke. Amidst the smoke and silence, the angel called out. “God promises by his own name that because you’ve been obedient and not withheld your treasure from me, I will absolutely bless you and make your family as numerous as the stars in the sky. They will conquer their enemies, and by them, all nations will be blessed.”

Abraham and his beloved son returned to the servants who were camping below, unaware of the profound experience both men of God received. In the morning they got up and traveled down to Beersheba.

Abraham settled there, and word reached him that his brother Nahor became the father of eight sons, of whom, Bethuel became the father of a little girl named Rebekah.

Inspiration: Genesis 22

Loyalty points

King Abimelech and his army commander Phicol came to Abraham for a little chat.

“It’s obvious God watches over you,” the king said, then added, “Promise me, in the presence of your God, that you’ll never betray me or my family tree. After all, I’ve been loyal friend.”

“I promise,” Abraham answered, “but I should make you aware of a dispute over one of my water wells. Your servants seem to think it’s yours.”

Abimelech answered, “This is the first I’ve heard of it. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It wasn’t a big deal.” Abraham brought Abimelech sheep and oxen, and they promised they’d be loyal to one another. Then Abraham took seven female lambs and set them apart from the rest of the fold.

“What are these for?” Abimelech asked.

“These seven lambs are given in exchange for your word that I dug the disputed well.”

They named that place “Beersheba,” Well of the Oath. After they sealed their promise, Abimelech and his commander went back to the land of the Philistines.

Abraham remained there awhile and planted a salt cedar near the well. There he spent some one-on-one time with God, and afterward, he surveyed the land of the Philistines.

Inspiration: Genesis 21

Ishmael’s bio

When Abraham was a hundred years old, Sarah bore him a son. They named him “Isaac,” He Laughs, remembering God’s promise.

“God made me laugh,” Sarah exclaimed with joy, “and everyone who hears our story will laugh too.”

Abraham circumcised Isaac at eight days old, and on the day he was weaned, Abraham hosted an elaborate feast. Sarah saw Ishmael poking fun at little Isaac at the celebration, so she told her husband, “Get this slave woman and her son out of our lives. That child will never share in Isaac’s blessing.”

This made Abraham sad because he loved his son Ishmael.

God said, “Don’t worry, Abraham. Do whatever Sarah says, because it will be through Isaac that your name will be carried. But because Ishmael is your son, I’ll make a nation through him, too.”

Abraham got up early the next morning, packed bread and water, and sent Hagar and Ishmael away. They wandered in the wild deserts of Beersheba, but they soon ran out of water.

Hagar placed a dehydrated Ishmael under a shade tree to die of thirst. She put some distance between herself and her son, so she didn’t have to watch him suffer, and she wept in grief.

God heard Ishmael moaning through a parched throat for water, and an angel spoke to Hagar. “What’s wrong, Hagar?” the angel asked. “Don’t worry about your son, because God hears him. Go and lift him from the ground. I’ll make him a great nation.”

God led her to a well of water. She ran over, filled the waterskin, and brought it to her son to drink.

God remained near as the boy grew into a man. He was an expert bowman and lived in the wilderness of Paran. Hagar found him a wife from Egypt, and Ishmael had twelve sons, who became twelve tribal kings. Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years.

Inspiration: Genesis 21, 25

Sister wife

From Mamre Oaks, Abraham set out toward the Negev. He and his wife established tents in Gerar, between Kadesh and Shur. Since they were new to the area, Abraham feared for his life. Just as he did in Egypt, he told everyone, “Sarah’s my sister.”

Abimelech, King of Gerar, brought Sarah into his household to take as a wife, but God visited him in a dream.

“You’re going to die,” God said, “because Sarah is married already.”

Abimelech had not yet taken Sarah into his bed. Nevertheless, God had shut up the wombs of every female in Abimelech’s house. He reasoned with God, saying, “Master, will you punish the innocent? Both Abraham and Sarah lied to me. I had no idea they were married.”

“I know you’re innocent,” God answered in the dream, “and I alone prevented you from sin. Return Sarah to Abraham, because he’s a prophet. He’ll pray for you, and you’ll live. Otherwise, you and your family will all die.”

Abimelech got up early from a sleepless night and brought his servants in for a meeting. Telling them about the vision, everyone was afraid for their lives. Then the king called Abraham and said, “What did I do to be deceived in my own house? You’ve disrespected me and my domain. What were you thinking?”

Abraham confessed that he didn’t trust a kingdom who didn’t fear God. “Besides,” he added, “she actually is my half-sister. Sarah and I share the same father. When God called me out of our father’s house, we agreed that she would play the role of sister any time we settled in a new place.”

Abimelech brought Sarah back, along with sheep, oxen, slaves of both sexes, and a thousand silver pieces. He handed them all over to Abraham and said, “Survey my land and settle wherever you like.” Then he turned to Sarah and said, “I have paid your brother with silver as a sign of your vindication.”

Abraham prayed to God, and as promised, Abimelech and his household were healed. The king’s wife and female slaves could bear children again.

Inspiration: Genesis 20

Negotiating terms

The visitors finished the food that had been prepared by their gracious host and then stood to leave Mamre Oaks. Gazing out over the distant waters toward the fertile plain of Sodom, the Master asked, “Should I hide what I’m about to do from my chosen one, Abraham?”

The sun began its early evening descent, and a warm breeze wafted through the encampment.

“You’ll be a great and mighty nation,” the Master said, his eyes meeting Abraham’s. “Every nation will be blessed because of you. I’ve chosen you to teach your children and their children to keep firmly on the way, to walk justly and uprightly. This is the way of the promise.”

The Master turned again toward Sodom. “Sodom and Gomorrah have brought their wickedness to new levels. I’m going down to see just how bad it has become.”

The two men traveling with the Master began their way toward Sodom, but Abraham stood on the path, the words of the promise echoing in his ears. The man in shining robes motioned for his company to go on ahead.

Abraham asked, “Master, will you destroy the good with the bad? What if you find fifty good people in Sodom. Will you still destroy the entire city? In other words, would the Judge of all the world do what’s unjust?”

The Master said, “If there are fifty good people in Sodom, I’ll spare everyone.”

Abraham then asked, “Who am I to press the issue, but what if you only find forty-five good people? Will you still spare the whole city?”

The Master answered, “For forty-five, I’ll spare both Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Abraham continued, “Forgive me, but what if there are only thirty good people in Sodom? What then?”

The Master said plainly, “I won’t destroy the city if there are thirty good people living there.”

Again, Abraham spoke. “What if you find twenty?”

“Then I’ll spare the city.”

“Ten?”

The Master put a hand upon Abraham’s shoulder and smiled. “For the sake of ten good people, I will spare the entire city.” Then he set out for Sodom.

Abraham went into his tent and attempted sleep.

Inspiration: Genesis 18

Promise confirmed

Abraham reclined one afternoon at the entrance of his tent at Mamre Oaks when he saw three men approaching, all adorned with bright robes. Running to them, he knelt humbly at their feet.

“Master,” Abraham said, addressing the man standing between the others. “Let me bring water for your feet and bread for you to snack on. Relax under my shade tree before moving on. I’m at your service.”

The men nodded.

Abraham called Sarah. “Quick, make some cakes with the good flour.” Then he ran over to his stockyard, brought out a tender calf, and handed it over to be slaughtered and roast on the spit.

He served succulent meats and cakes with butter and milk, and he stood at the ready, keeping their wine goblets full as they feasted under the shade tree.

“Where’s Sarah?” one of the men asked, out of the blue.

Abraham motioned to the tent. “Inside,” he said, realizing his guests knew him and his family.

“I’ll be back through this way when the time is right,” the man answered, “and Sarah will have a son.”

Hearing her name, Sarah put her ear closer to the entrance of the tent, and she laughed under her breath. Imagine an old bag like me having a child, she thought.

The Master said to Abraham, “Why’d your wife laugh? Is anything too difficult for the Master?”

Abraham’s face went ashen. They were reading his wife’s thoughts, which could only mean one thing. He was in the presence of heavenly beings on a mission to confirm the way of God’s reverberating promise.

“When the time is right, I’ll return. Your wife will have a child,” he said. Then with a glint in his eye, he added, “and I’ll have the last laugh.”

Sarah came out of the tent and blurted, “I didn’t laugh.” She was noticeably shaking with fear.

With a friendly smile, the Master said, “Yes, you did.” And the case was closed.

Inspiration: Genesis 18