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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 17: Multiplication then Division

Today's Reading: Genesis 16-18

So I ask myself. Am I reading Pre-Algebra 101 or Soap Opera 101?

I wonder, if we stepped back from "the Holy Scriptures," "the inspired, authoritative Word of God for faith and practice," would we read these chapters from Genesis and say, "Now really, Sarai, what in the world were you thinking?!"

I can't imagine saying to my husband, "Here, take this other woman, have sex with her, and that will make everything in my life and everything between us better."

Yes, I know, I know. Different time---different culture. But Sarai was so fixated on the multiplication of her family, she had no clue of the division that would follow.

And, Abram in this story, plays either a stupid, hen pecked husband or else something else I don't want to put into words.

Yes, I know, I know. Different time---different culture. But, really! Talk about making a mess!

So here's the soap opera script:
* a barren wife decides to take things into her own hands,
* a marriage is "interrupted" [for lack of better words],
* Hagar starts prancing around the tent with a big belly [probably doing a mocking, sing-songy dance: something like "Nanny, nanny, boo, boo!" {come to think of it, the Nanny did see the boo-boo!--I wonder if that's the origin of that phrase...hmmm}],
* Sarai goes into a crying hysterics,
* Abram washes his hands of the responsibility [Coward!],
* and the division in the family leads to oppression on all sides of the triagulated family system.

After all this is played out, I wonder how the conversation in heaven was scripted as the God who hears ["Ishmael"] and the God who sees ["El Roi"], receives the distress signal on "high definition CNN!" My guess is God's words were something like, "What a mess! Do you all think you could have made a bigger pile of manure if you tried!?"

The fragile relationships of family life have been shattered, divided into little bitty splinters, and God has to come in with the broom and dustpan to clean it all up. "Hagar, submit to your mistress; I'll greatly multiply you if you will just stop the division."

Believe it or not, this same mess repeats itself after Ishmael is born in chapter 21, which goes to prove we rarely learn from our mistakes, but that discussion is for another day.

In between these two stories of division, God continues to fulfill the promise of multiplication.

It seems when God fulfills God's multiplication promises, people are so mystified, so amazed, they begin laughing stupidly in disbelief, as if to say, "Yes, LORD, I know you said this, but I never really believed you'd follow through on such folly, such impossibilities..."

I'm wondering if we who are of the household of faith, who have had our hearts circumcised, carry this dominant family gene of disbelief and stubborn "I'll-do-it-myself" mentality. It must be in our DNA--this fear of being fruitful and multiplying according to God's grace, God's timeline and God's plan instead of by our own puny powerlessness.

I think we are more comfortable with division---making up our own little "cutting" rituals. We use our tongues to slash one another, instead of letting the sword of the Spirit and the Word of God divide and cut us to the quick with repentance and conversion---circumcision of the heart.

So God has to keep dispatching heralds--messengers--to keep reminding us. "My promises are no laughing matter."

"I establish My covenant with [you] for an everlasting covenant..." 17:19

"And life would be so much easier if you'd quit putting the Ishmaels of your own will into the equation of the Isaacs of My Will."

I wonder how long God is going to have to keep cleaning up our messes...


  1. My answer to anyone with a simplistic solution to the problems in the Middle East is "do you really think that can fix a problem that has been around since Abraham and Sarah." Talk about the sins of the fathers...

  2. "And [Ishmael] will be a wild donkey of a man,
    His hand will be against everyone,
    And everyone's hand will be against him;..."

    I agree with you. The words of God concerning Ishmael and his descendants---those step cousins of the descendants of Isaac who practice the faith of Islam---shape the reality in which we live. The "family feud" goes WAY back.