Old Testament Reading for the Second Week in Lent

“After these events, the Lord’s word came to Abram in a vision, ‘Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector. Your reward will be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus.’ He continued, “Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir.’”
Genesis 15:1-3

'A Question of Light' photo (c) 2013, Brian Fuller - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/It is strange what getting married will do to a person. I am not a naturally confrontational person. I hate tension, I do not like to argue, and I am generally an all around people pleaser. There were few things I was willing to argue about before marriage. Color palettes, couch placement and bed sheets were not high on my priority list. I was, however, ready to defend why Gladiator is a superior movie to Braveheart and why coconut is the best food on the planet (before it recently became cool). Those were things I stood up for, those were things I believed in. But, like I said, marriage does strange things to ones brain. I began to care about things I never thought I would. Things like…

Silverware.

The first disagreement, and probably biggest disagreement to date, between my wife and I was over what silverware we were going to register for. We had spent two gleeful hours registering for things at a Bed, Bath and Beyond. We zapped towels, kitchen gadgets, pillowcases, plates, bowls, and curtains generally coming to an agreement without too much wrangling. However, our gleeful romp through housewares came to a screeching halt when we tried to settle on what forks, knives and spoons we wanted. It became quite apparent that there was a strong divide between our preferences of silverware and neither of us was willing to budge. We each argued the merits of size, style, weight, contemporary vs. traditional, and three tines to four on a fork each of us digging our heels with our chosen styles. Thankfully, neither of us decided to use the samples as weapons in defending our choice. Harsh words were spoken and tears were shed, but eventually we settled on a set that seemed to balance our preferences. We zapped the box into our registry and left the store. It was quite an ordeal, and probably more dramatic than it needed to be. We laugh about it now, but it definitely helped us to learn more about what causes each other to tick.

Disagreements are such an inherent part of our relationships, but we overlook and even avoid them often to our own detriment. Talking about our different points of view can be an important part of developing relationships. Through them you may learn about what is important to you and to those around you. Disagreements and even healthy arguments can be good for deepening relationships. Yes, you read that right…I said healthy arguments deepen relationships. Now, I’m not encouraging you to go out and intentionally get into arguments, Jesus does say, “blessed are the peacemakers.” What I am encouraging you to do is to not be afraid and ask a question when you see things a different way or when things do not make sense. Ask a question, make your point, listen to the response and try to come to an agreement. Discuss and argue well, don’t just scream your opinion at the top of your lungs drowning everyone else out.

I bring this up during Lent because I think this is something that has been lost and even discouraged in the church. Take this passage from the Old Testament for example. God shows up to Abram and tells him, “Your reward will be very great.” Abram seems confused by the proclamation and begins to question how he can have any reward that will be great. He has no son, his inheritance will fall to his accountant who is not even from the same country as Abram. Abram (whose name means father) will not even live up to his name. Having no children to pass an inheritance too means Abram will fade away into obscurity and never be honored. What kind of reward can God give or create out of those circumstances? This makes no sense to Abram and he questions God’s proclamation. If you read the rest of the chapter, Abram questions God more. Did Abram ask all these questions because he did not have faith in God? It does not seem like it because verse 6 of the same chapter is the famous verse that says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abram believed and placed his faith in God, but it was not without some healthy questions and argument. It was not blind faith. Abram asks questions but God never turns his back on Abram, never calls him faithless, and ultimately God keeps true to his promises and covenant with Abram.

Questioning and arguing with God is actually pretty standard in the Bible.

Jacob wrestles with God.

Moses argues with God A LOT.

Gideon tested God.

David wrote some argumentative psalms (i.e. Psalm 13).

Job got pretty upset with God.

Jonah practically threw a temper-tantrum.

The prophet Habakkuk questioned God’s motives.

Paul pleaded with God about a “thorn in his side”.

Jesus asked if there was any other way in the Garden of Gethsemane.

These were not arguments, questions or prayers of faithless people. They were prayers of very faithful people who had genuine questions and concerns about how God was working. I think somewhere along the line we were told a lie that questioning God is a faithless act. That we just have to close our eyes, hold God’s hand and never question what he says or where he leads. That if we question the sovereign will of God then he will strike us down with a vengeful thunderbolt as if God was as precocious and temperamental as the Greek god Zeus.

We don’t serve Zeus folks. They both may have awesome beards but that’s where the similarities end. We serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of Israel. The God spoken of by the Prophets. The God revealed and incarnated in Christ. The God who chose to work with humanity to save creation, who came down to interact with and demonstrate his true nature. God entered into this relationship knowing full well that questions were going to be asked and he has gone to great pains to answer those questions.

Excruciating pain actually.

So have no fear, argue with God, wrestle with God, fight with God, scream at God, do not be afraid. Write your questions in a journal, pray about it when you are walking, ask a friend or pastor, write it out in your Bible, put them on your mirror or fridge. Do not worry about God, he can take it. Lent is a time for us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” God’s faithfulness does not end when we feel like ours does. God wants a relationship; he wants to hear from his people, he is ready for your questions, concerns and arguments. But know that the answer might be similar to the examples above.

Abram got a son.

Job got a lecture.

Jacob was blessed.

Jonah smelled of fish.

Moses saved the children of Israel from Egypt.

Moses had to deal with the children of Israel.

Gideon was victorious.

Paul had to persevere.

David became king.

Jesus was crucified.

Jesus was glorified.

We should have frequent recourse to prayer, and persevere a long time in it. God wishes to be solicited. He is not weary of hearing us. The treasure of His graces is infinite. We can do nothing more pleasing to him than to beg incessantly that He bestow them upon us.”
St. John Baptist de la Salle
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