08/26/2018 = Genesis 25-27 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Jacob & Esau – Who’s on First?”

(Click HERE for today’s audio file)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 25-27

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Jacob & Esau – Who’s on First?


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Opening section of Abbot and Costello’s 1942 “Who’s on first?” skit.

Abbott: Strange as it may seem, they give ball players nowadays very peculiar names.

Costello: Funny names?

Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third–

Costello: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.

Abbott: I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third–

Costello: You know the fellows’ names?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: Well, then who’s playing first?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: I mean the fellow’s name on first base.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The fellow playin’ first base.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The guy on first base.

Abbott: Who is on first.

Costello: Well, what are you askin’ me for?

Abbott: I’m not asking you–I’m telling you. Who is on first.

Costello: I’m asking you–who’s on first?

Abbott: That’s the man’s name.

Costello: That’s who’s name?

Abbott: Yes.


Anybody here never see that scene before? Abbot and Costello were hilarious, and this skit defined them – the original was over 6 minutes long! And it displays the confusion over identity perfectly.

What’s the man’s name playing first? – No, that’s Who. – That’s what I wanna know!


In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsfavorite Bible stories, or stories that we’ve always wondered about or had questions about. Today we read about two brothers, Jacob and Esau, and how confusion over who was whom changes the course of history … and what that means for us today.


In this series we have read the stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and a few Abraham and Isaac stories.

I invite you to turn with me today, and to listen to, Genesis 25-27 (Pp. 18-20). Hear the Word of God …. —-

Last week we saw that Abraham and Sarah in their very old age (100 & 90) have their first son, Isaac, as the beginning of the fulfillment of a promise from God that their offspring would outnumber the stars in the sky. Then God tells Abraham to offer his son, his only son, whom he lovesIsaac – as a sacrifice.

By the time we get to chapter 25, this son of Abraham, Isaac, is 60 years old, married to a distant relative named Rebekah – but they also are childless. So Isaac prays for a baby; the Lord answers his prayer – with twins – who (the NIV says) jostled each other within Rebekah’s womb. When Rebekah cries out to God about her belly’s wrestlessness, God tells her:

          “Two nations are in your womb,

          And two peoples from within you will be separated;

          One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”


Well, these two boys, fraternal twins, were born, still wrestling with each otherthe first came out red he was like a hairy garment, so they named him Esau (hairy), and the second came out grasping hold of Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob (Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives), and in conflict their whole lives.

One day as they were grown, the older brother, Esau – big and hairy – was so hungry he was “hangry”, so he sold his “first-born-birthright” to his younger brother, Jacob – smaller and smooth-skinned. How do you think this event affected their relationship? And the truth is that they did grow apart, Esau’s family line became the nation of Edom, enemies of the Israelites – and Jacob became Israel! Almost 1800 years later a descendant of Esau was named King of Israel by the Roman Emperor, his name was King Herod – who killed all the boys in Bethlehem two years old and younger in an effort to kill the baby Jesus, the newborn King of the Jews.


By the time we get to chapter 27 Isaac’s age is catching up to him, his vision is gone, and he knows his end is near.

So he calls Esau, his oldest twin son, and tells him, “You know I’m on hospice now, my time is close. Here’s what I want you to do: Get your gun, go out to the woods, and hunt some wild game for me – you know how I love your venison stew. Make that for me, and I’ll give you my blessing before I die.”

But Rebekah, Esau’s and Jacob’s Mom, overhears these instructions, and as soon as Esau leaves the house she calls Jacob over and plots with him a way to steal Esau’s blessing. She tells Jacob, “Go to the barn pick out two of the choicest goats and bring them to me – I know how to make them taste like wild game, and when you take my stew to your Dad he’ll give you Esau’s blessing before he dies.”

You remember that Jacob already has Esau’s birthright, right? And the word of God to Rebekah that the younger brother would rule over the older brother? Now the younger bro is about to get the last will and testament of Dad instead of the older bro. But there’s a hitch in the plan – while Isaac is old and his vision is gone, he still knows his sons voices and physical differences: Esau is big and hairy and Jacob is smaller and smooth.

So Jacob reminds his Mom that Dad will know that Jacob is not Esau – “How do we fool him, Mom?”

Listen to how this plays out – I’m reading from Genesis 27:14-46 …. —-

14 So he went and got [the goats] and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17 Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18 He went to his father and said, “My father.”       “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is this?”

19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

20 Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”          “The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied.

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” 22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

I am,” he replied.

25 Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank.26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son     is like the smell of a field            that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you heaven’s dew          and earth’s richness—      an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you                and peoples bow down to you.         Be lord over your brothers,
    and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.    May those who curse you be cursed
    and those who bless you be blessed.”

30 After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

32 His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”        “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cryand said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”         35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? [remember that Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives.] This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

39 His father Isaac answered him,        “Your dwelling will be         away from the earth’s richness,
    away from the dew of heaven above.        40 You will live by the sword          and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,     
    you will throw his yoke               from off your neck.”

41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”


Whaaat? Right? This is a chapter of one lie after anotherRebekah and then Jacob – it’s a chapter of theft and trickery, of lost blessings and stolen blessings, of threats of curses and threats of murder. How is this a Gospel story? Why is it even in the Bible?

I have a couple thoughts about that, and my take-away.

Jacob is listed as one of the biblical heroes of faith – even with this story. One of the things that help make the Bible believable is that it does not hide the ugliness of its heroes!

And these Bible heroes are not simply examples of faith. Even when they make bad choices and do wrong things – they are in the Family Tree of Jesus!


Here’s what may be the most important verse in this story: 36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? [What does Jacob mean? he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives.] This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!… Don’t you have a blessing for me?” 

Here’s what I think God wants us to hear in this storywe are all sinnersAbraham sinned, Isaac sinned, Rebekah sinned, Esau sinned, and here we see that even Jacob sinned.

But even though we all sin, Almighty God loves us, and He has a plan for us. He wants us to return to Him for forgiveness. God is standing by and ready to forgive, and He longs to do so.

I love that God uses these people, no better than you or me maybe, but God uses them in His salvation story! Next week we read where Jacob’s name is changed to Israel – from one who cheats and lies to one who wrestles with God.

God uses Jacob to reveal His Word of truth from this point forward. Do you remember the story in John 1 where Jesus is just starting to gather His followers, and Philip is so excited about meeting Jesus that he runs and gets his friend Nathaniel. When Jesus sees Nathaniel He says, “Here’s an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit” (“Here’s a true example of ‘Israel’ in whom there is no sign of ‘Jacob’”).

God loves you, and He longs to give that love to you.

Friends, let’s not make Him wait any longer. Let’s open our lives, our hearts, our minds, and accept His love and forgiveness.

Trust that Jesus took your place on the cross – like last week’s substitute ram who died on behalf of Isaac – so that we do not need to experience that final death. Our heavenly Father loves us so much that He sent His Son to pay that price. And whoever would believe in Him would not perish into eternal death but would have life beyond death.

If you have never before believed that God really did raise Jesus from the dead, today is the day of your salvationbelieve and receive Him today!


Jacob – the younger brother, the second born son of Isaac, carries the torch of the way of salvation.

Who’s on first? What’s on second? Friends, do not get lost in the sin, just keep your eyes focused on the Son who gave Himself for you. – This was part of the message of Jake’s song this morning, MetronomeGod’s love will keep the rhythm of our lives directed on following Him, even when we act like Jacob son of Isaac, son of Abrahamancestor of our Lord and Savior.


Thank You, YHWH God, for including stories like this one about Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Esau. This story recognizes that people who sin just like I do can be a part of Your story and Your plan. Today, Lord, I ask Your forgiveness; I want Your welcoming love and Your forgiving grace And I want to call You Father and hear You call me Your child. Thank You for Jesus; in His name we pray, Amen.



Abbott, Bud and Lou Costello; “Who’s on First?”; 1942.

Davis, Jake; “Metronome”; 2018.


08/19/2018 = Genesis 22:1-19 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Abraham & Isaac – The Ultimate Sacrifice”

(Click right HERE for the audio track of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 22:1-19

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Abraham & Isaac – The Ultimate Sacrifice


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


Through the Written Word,            And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


On our way back to Spokane last month as we were sitting in the Norfolk airport, they announced that the flight to Seattle was full. The airline was looking for volunteers to give up their seats. In exchange, they’d give you a $100 voucher for your next flight and a first class seat in the plane leaving an hour later. About eight people ran up to the counter to take advantage of the offer.

About 15 seconds later all eight of those people sat down grumpily as the lady behind the ticket counter said, “If there is anyone else OTHER than the flight crew who’d like to volunteer, please step forward…”


OK, so that didn’t really happen…. But I use that as a way to introduce the idea of realsacrifice versus lessersacrifice.


In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsfavorite Bible stories, or stories that we’ve always wondered about or had questions about. Today we read about a time when Father Abraham offers the ultimate sacrifice … and what that means for us today.


On Father’s Day we started this series, reading from Genesis 12 where God calls Abram to become, in his senior years (he was 75 years old), the Founding Father of a family, a nation, a race, and a faith.

I invite you to turn with me, and to listen to, Genesis 22:1-19 (P. 14). Hear the Word of God …. —-

25 years after the 75-year old Abraham is promised his first son, he and his 90-year old wife Sarah have Isaac.

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”         “Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of MoriahSacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.  As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar  there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar,  on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,  18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba.   And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.


Let’s start by simply stating the obvious: Seriously God? Really? The test of Abraham’s faith is to obey the demand of his son’s murder? Wow!

No one would argue that this is anything but the most extreme, ugly, and masochistic demand any god could make, let alone the God we claim is perfect LOVE!

But, that said, we can only read/hear this story in context of the whole of Scripture, not in isolation or without full biblical contextual understanding. So, let’s step back and gain perspective.


Did your imagination set the scene of this story?Some time later …Abraham was old long before Isaac was even born, so “some time later” easily sets the scene as Abraham as, now, very old! And Isaac is no longer a toddler. Right? Isaac is the one who carried the wood up the mountain for the burnt offering – we’re talking an at least pre-teen Isaac, maybe a full-on teenager! Yes, Abraham is offering Isaac as the object of the burnt offering, but Isaac goes very willingly.

At one point, remember, Isaac says, “Hey Pops, we have everything we need for this offering, except the ACTUAL OFFERING!” Right? Isaac was, apparently, not told ahead of time how this was supposed to play out – but Isaac was still very capable of escaping the horror of what was about to happen. A 14-year old boy versus a 114 –year old man? Who’s most likely to win that foot race?

No, Isaac willingly allowed this sacrifice of his own life to take place.


And what was Abraham’s answer to Isaac’s question about where the actual offering was? Abraham says, “God Himself will provide the lamb.”


Our Thursday Bible Study Group, btw – you’re all invited to this – just started an examination of the book of Revelation – and I posted a picture of something asking the class to guess what it was a picture of. They guessed: a piece of meat, a hill in the desert, the backside of a naked man kneeling in prayer, etc.

Then I backed the picture up and everyone could easily see the Sistine Chapel depiction of God’s hand touching Adam’s hand in the section called The Creation of Adam. Then we backed up further and saw the whole panel of this Creation story. Then a little further back and we saw the entire ceiling telling the whole of the story of Scripture.


I invite you now to do that same thing with this story. As we back up far enough to catch the entire picture we notice a few details that are invisible when we take the story out of context.


God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love …”  Can anyone think of another story in the Bible where we hear very similar words? [John 3:16, “God gave His only Son…”; at the baptism stories in each of the Gospels, “This is my Son, my only Son, whom I love …”]


“… go to the region of MoriahSacrifice him there …”   Do you know where Mt. Moriah is? [Mt. Moriah is the high point of what is later called Jerusalem. What happens in Jerusalem 1800 years later? The only begotten Son of God is sacrificed, willingly, for our sins…]


Abraham is the only human in this story that knows the secret plan to sacrifice Isaac. But did you catch what he said to the crew of travelers with him?  Listen: “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham knows the plan to sacrifice Isaac, but that’s all he knows, but what does he say? [Verse 5 ends with Abraham saying, “we will come back to you.” Who is “we”? Abraham AND Isaac? Even after the sacrifice?

Remember who Isaac is? He is Abraham’s ONLY hope for the fulfillment of the promises God made to him in chapters 12 and 15 and 17 and 18. If Isaac dies, the whole promise of a nation and a people and a Savior for the world dies with him! So, Abe says, “we’ll be right back.”

And in that same paragraph, verse 4, how many days was this journey to death and life? “On the third day ….”  What does that remind you of?


Anyone who has ever been in church before sees the correlation now, don’t you? This all is an 1,800 year early picture of the Messiah whom has been talked about since the beginning of Genesis!


Abraham tells Isaac, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” And then just as Abraham is about to slay his only son whom he loves God stops the sacrifice and He Himself provides a ram in the thickets as a perfect substitute sacrifice!

And Jesus, nearly 2,000 years later, is called the Lamb of God, provided as the sacrifice for us, willingly offering Himself, as a substitute for our own deserved death!

And so Abraham names Mount Moriah, that which will one day be Mount Zion, he names it “The Lord will provide!” And in the name of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, whom He loved, boy howdy did He ever provide!


And then this chapter, this story of the Ultimate Sacrifice of Jesus prefigured in the Ultimate Sacrifice of Isaac, closes with a reiteration of the promise – and a little Godly sense of humor. If you still have your Bibles open, look at verse 16I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,  18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

How do we make the sincerest of promises?  We say, “I promise I’ll do the dishes! I swear to God!” (Yeah, I know that the Bible tells us to just let our Yes be Yes and our No be No, that we shouldn’tswear to God”, that maybe, even, that’s breaking the commandment to not use the Lord’s name in vain, so I’m not condoning this, I’m not prescribing this, I’m simply describing that that’s what we do. How does God make the sincerest of promises? He says, “I swear to MYSELF!” C’mon. That’s kind of funny!

And what does He swear? That He will keep His promise about descendantshow many? – and that through one of those descendantsall the nations on the earth will be blessed!”

Jesus is the Ultimate Sacrificial fulfillment of that promise!  From this story, and words from Hebrews which say that Christ died once for all, we no longer have a need for an altar on which to offer sacrifices. In Presbyterian Churches, and in all Reformed Churches, there is no altar. What is this Table that lays between us and the cross? It is not an altar on which Christ is re-sacrificed every week – it is a Table! A Communion Table, which reminds us of, brings us back to, helps us recall, the one Sacrifice to Rule them All!


As we enter into our time of prayer together today, assuming all the technology works, I invite you to reflect on today’s Bible story, and listen to this 1983 song by Michael Card called “God Will Provide a Lamb”.


Thank You, YHWH God, for the Ultimate Sacrificial Lamb, whom You provide as substitute for what we each deserve.  As we read about Abraham’s obedient faith, let it remind us, Lord, of Your always dependable providence for salvation and forgiveness and grace and mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Your only Son whom You love. Amen.




08/12/2018 = Genesis 15-21 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Abraham, Sarah & Hagar – Family Trees Have Deep Roots and Broad Branches”

(Click HERE for an audio version of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 15-21

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Abraham, Sarah & Hagar – Family Trees Have Deep Roots and Broad Branches


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


A month ago, Jennifer and Brianna and I were on a trip to Florida and Virginia, bunking with some of Jennifer’s extended family – her mom and a brother and his wife and a sister and her husband and an aunt and uncle, and others – our trip’s mission, our stated purpose, besides having a giant family reunion, included spreading some of Jennifer’s father’s ashes at various cemetery sites, burial spots, of some of his ancestors, dating to before the Civil War.

Just before we left on this trip my own mother passed away, nearly 4 years after my dad had died.

All of this got me to thinking about my family tree – so I joined a free version of Ancestry.com and was immediately hooked by the fascination of discovering family background (I have followed my mom’s family back to Germany and Poland, back to the late 1600s so far).

One of the things I discovered is how deep our Family Trees go, but also how wide across and intertangled our Branches become when we look at the different side of each family, and the in-laws (and outlaws) we find. (Jennifer’s Mom and my Dad both have Irish roots with the last name of Moore – does that make us likely “kissin’ cousins”?) (And Jennifer’s Dad’s family line includes Pocahontas! – so, there’s that!)


In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsfavorite Bible lessons, or stories that we’ve always wondered about or had questions about. Today we read about Father Abraham, and his wife Sarah, and her servant woman Hagar, and their sons Isaac and Ishmael.


On Father’s Day we started this series, reading from Genesis 12 where God calls Abram to become, in his senior years (he was 75 years old), the Founding Father of a nation, a race, and a faith.

Your bulletins say that we are reading Genesis 15-21 today – so hold on to your seats …. —-


Back in Genesis 12 God had promised a man from the eastern country of Ur that he would receive a whole nation worth of land, and the offspring to fill it, and that one of those offspring would be the salvation for humankind.

But by chapter 15 a number of years have passed, and while Abram and Sarai, whose names change to Abraham and Sarah, now live in this Promised Land, they still have no children. They were old 3 chapters ago – they are now starting to lose confidence in God’s promise about children.

Well, Abraham complains to God – “I’m getting old, God, and Sarah – is it even possible at her age?!”

So God takes Abe out to the desert and tells him to look up into the clear, starry sky, “How many stars do you see up there Abe? Can you count them?

“No, Lord! There are far too many to count.”

Your children will outnumber those stars, Abe. Do you trust me?

Yes, Lord, I trust You. I believe You.”

But after a little while longer, and still no children, Sarah finally decides to follow the custom of the people whose land they were living in, for Abe to take her servant woman Hagar, to start a family with her, and maybe they could adopt her son and count him as their own. … …

So … Hagar becomes pregnant, and Abe is both proud of himself and afraid that maybe this wasn’t the right way to go. Hagar starts getting a little “showy” – “look at meI’m more important than the lady who I work for I’m carrying her husband’s babyGod loves me more than He loves Sarah!”

… … Well, Sarah had had all she could take! “Look what you did to me Abraham! – You gave your seed to Hagar, my slave girl, instead of to me, your wife!”

Abraham, being the head of his household, tells Sarah, “So, do whatever you want to with Hagar – she’s YOUR slave girl!”

Well, Sarah treats Hagar so miserably that now Hagar could stand it no longer and she takes off for the hot desert, she runs away, with no one to look after her.

God finds Hagar out in the desert, and even though she is not His plan for Abraham’s Family Tree, He consoles her, comforts her, promises her that He, God, would take care of her and her son, and that she would name him Ishmael (God hears).

So, Hagar returns to Abraham and Sarah, and when Abraham is 86 years old he becomes the father of Ishmael – but Ishmael was not the one God promised to Abraham in Genesis 12 or Genesis 15. … …

One day Abe is sitting at the opening of his tent while Sarah sits inside enjoying the A/C. It’s hot and dry, so Abe is surprised when he looks up and sees three men walking toward him.

He runs out to them, gives them a shady place under a tree, and then runs back to Sarah to get her to bake some bread, BBQ some steaks, get the jello salad started, and pour the Sweet Tea….

When the picnic is prepared and Abe brings the spread out to them, they ask where Sarah is – “Oh, she’s in the tent, getting the cherry pies ready” (or whatever).

The leader of the three men then said, “Nine months from now Sarah will give birth to a son.”

But, when Sarah hears this ridiculous prophecy, she bursts out in laughter!

“Why are you laughing, Sarah?” “I didn’t laugh!”

“But you did! Do you think this is impossible for God?! What I promise will happen!”

… … and Abraham realizes these are not just ordinary men – they spoke the Word of God Himself! Angels!

… … Then there’s like a 2-chapter interlude story about Abe’s nephew Lot and his life in and with Sodom and Gomorrah (this is where Lot’s wife looks back and turns into a pillar of salt – we’re not going into that story today).

The next chapter in Abraham’s life is when his son Isaac (Laughter – reminder of Sarah’s laughter, and of the joy and happiness that this son means to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, and as the beginning of the promise to Abraham about how many offspring he would have) is born. 

One day as Isaac grows into a toddler his big half-brother Ishmael is playing with him, but there’s some cruel teasing involved. Sarah catches the boys, and she burns with anger about Hagar’s son picking on her own son – so she tells Abraham that Hagar and Ishmael needed to leave.

Father Abraham was saddened by this, but God reassured him that He would look after Ishmael, and that he should do as Sarah wanted.

So Hagar does leave this time, and Genesis 21 tells the stories about how God takes care Hagar and Ishmael even as they go their own way.


That is not the end of the stories of Ishmael – he grows up and becomes the father of his own people – the people of Moab are his offspring, and the people of Edom, enemies of the Jews for generations; 600 years after Christ this Family Tree branched out into the Muslim people. Deeply rooted with the Jews and us Christians – and so very far spread abroad.


Isaac was the chosen son of Abraham, the one chosen to bear a son named Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel – does that sound familiar?) – and when we look at Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels where they give us the Family Tree of Jesus we discover the deep, deep roots of Jesus.


These stories are in our Scriptures so that we can see how God had a plan from the very Beginning of Genesis, fulfilled in Jesus, and offered to you for your salvation, for your invitation into this Family Tree, by faith we are saved by God’s grace.


Do you get the power of these stories? They tell us that it’s not really about simply being a church-goer, even a church leader. It is really about being a real member of the Spiritual Family Tree, which means knowing God our Father, trusting Him even when it seems impossible, and as His children, His sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ of the unshakeable Kingdom of God living like we believe all that we say we believe.

How might we live into those Roots of faith today? How might we branch out with God’s perfect redeeming love to the world around us this afternoon? … …


Thank You, YHWH God, for the invitation into Your Family Tree, as undeserving as I am, Your love calls me as Your child.  Lord, help me, help us all, to branch out with Your true love, and bear the fruit of Your Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


A Reflection after Whitworth Institute of Ministry’s Bible Hours on Colossians 3:12-17

Wearing Virtue

I am writing this article from the middle of my week at the Whitworth University Institute of Ministry, therefore my brain is already  overflowing and my thoughts may come out a bit jumbled. My apologies to you for that, and my thanks for the opportunity to meet with colleagues, to listen to experts, to share with friends, and to discover God in the midst of our chaotic and sometimes-disturbing world.

Each day this week begins with a 15-30 minute worship and prayer time, followed by a 75-90 minute Bible lesson. All week long we are looking at Colossians 3:12-17. Listen:

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Whitworth Bible professors, Josh Leim and Haley Jacob, talked about this list of virtues, and how we, as humans throughout history evaluate and judge one another based on our virtuous or vicious (vice-driven) we view each other to be. Paul says that, as God’s chosen ones, people who are called by God and loved by God, we become virtuous when we wear these items of virtue – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. But notice how different these “virtues” are from those that the dog-eat-dog world around us counts as virtue: strength, fortitude, skill, boldness. Almost like opposites. Professor Leim also pointed out how these biblical qualities of “goodness” might easily be used to describe the person and work of Jesus. (Jesus was also strong, formidable, skilled, and bold – but always with a sense of compassion, kindness, humility, and patience). These five “virtues” are also among the nine fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. We cannot be these things on our own. We “put them on”, we “wear them”, as we crawl into Jesus’ likeness – created in the image of God.

As we move through the rest of this Summer, let’s live into our “imago Dei” (“image of God”) in such a way that the world around us will see and want the virtues we wear!

Since God has been so gracious to us, ought not we share that grace, His overflowing grace, with the world around us? Above all else, put on love which binds everyone together in perfect harmony! Let’s love each other as a means to share God’s love with the world around us. (Worship in the Park is one way to demonstrate this.)

May God bless you.