What was Abram thinking when God responded? I imagine it might have gone something like this:
“Why are you telling me not to be afraid? Your warning only makes me more afraid. You are my protector? Where have you been? Great reward? Yeah right, you haven’t even given me children. For crying out loud, why would I want a great reward when all I have wanted all this time is a family? Do you really understand how much agony and embarrassment this has caused us? I’ve had to ask a slave to be my heir. Now suddenly you are promising not only that I will have children but also that my descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky. What just happened here?”
Sometimes we can ask and yearn for something for a very long time. But when God moves, it is beyond what we even dreamed of. We find ourselves at the intersection of both fear and excitement. Abram’s strong personal relationship with God is shown in this passage, his faith and commitment over time has born fruit as evidenced in God’s promise, an unconditional promise with no strings attached.
- What is something your life that you have been praying about for a long time without an answer? Have you given up hope?
The sheer joy and victory overflowing from this psalm is infectious. It makes me think of fans of a winning team (such as Super Bowl champions). There is a pride in knowing that you were right all along and that your trust in the team has been justified through their performance.
Nothing feels better than to have our choices validated, especially if they are choices that cannot be backed up with hard data. “I just feel it in my gut.” “I’m going on faith.” We still say these things because we are human. At times we are rational, backing up our statements with reason, but other times we follow our spirit as it guides us to make a decision based on something much deeper. Faith.
And when God makes good on a promise, we sing praises, victorious praises, so that everyone around us can hear. Because our faith is justified we recommit ourselves “teach me your way, O Lord.”
- What in your life has you singing praises aloud? A sports victory? A raise? Your child’s report card or performance? Take time to reflect on God’s movement in your life.
Paul addresses the Philippians community as family, a new family in Christ. He calls for everyone to join him in imitating Christ, both as individuals and as a community, for it does no good to follow these guidelines by oneself. As Christians, we are called to be in community and to support one another. To live a life in imitating Christ is difficult, and it is best done with the company of each other.
Paul is challenging the Philippians to hold each other accountable to a higher moral standard than traditional Greco-Roman customs at that time. This call continues in our lives today; Roman’s 12:2 reminds us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
- Are you currently connected to a Christian community, a church, school, camp or other organization? Do your friends and family know that you are seeking a life lived in Christ? If we hide this journey, we deny ourselves and others the opportunities to challenge us and help us grow in our faith.
The Pharisees get such a bad rap in the gospels. But we must remember that not all Pharisees were terrible; some were more extreme in their reactions to Jesus than others. Just as today within any religion, sect or denomination there are believers who are extreme enforcers of the law and believers who are more moderate.
Here, they are actually warning Jesus, something that we don’t see much of in the gospels. But Jesus reminds them that it is his destiny to suffer and die, for he is fulfilling his role as a prophet. He tells them that he will die in Jerusalem and that it is Jerusalem that will kill him.
- Then he predicts his resurrection in verse 35. How is it that Jesus repeats this over and over again in the gospels and people still could not see, hear or understand the message?
- Jesus becomes human; suffering, dying for us, resurrected and now sitting at the right hand of God. Gods don’t become human, and humans don’t become gods. At least, that is what myths and stories in traditions around the world will demonstrate. Even today it is an earth-shattering revelation.
- If someone asked you to explain how Jesus dying on the cross is relevant to the world today, what would you say?