Archive for November, 2019

1 Chronicles 2:18-50a

Descendants of Hezron

Who was Hezron? He is not a very well-known biblical figure. His mentions in the Bible are few and there are no extended discussions of his life in the Bible. There is very little available on him when you do internet searches or explore biblical websites. He is just not that immense of a Biblical figure. However, his son Caleb is a seminal figure in the Bible. He was one of the two men that came back with positive reports when Moses sent 12 men out to spy out the Promised Land. Caleb represents to us a person that stands against the tide of public opinion and stands firm on the promises of God. He is an example of faith in the face of fear, faith in the face of great obstacles.

Much of what we are as children is shaped by the upbringing that we had at home. It got me to thinking about what we desire for our children. We know Caleb as a biblical great. We know Caleb as someone we look up to among the Old Testament bible heroes. I now think of how proud Hezron must have been of his son. Caleb must have learned the traits of faith and bravery resulting from faith at home. He must have been taught to have faith in God despite what we can see, taste, feel, sense to the contrary. He must have been taught that God has always come through for His faithful servants when they are doing His will. He must have been taught to love the Lord so much that we trust Him no matter what. He must have been taught to trust in the Lord. He must have been taught that “if the Lord says it to be true” then I am going to believe it. Caleb is an example of faith lived out. Where did he learn that? No matter how much we say or think that what we do in front of our children does not matter, we are wrong when we say that. The Barna Research Group surveys demonstrate that American children ages 5 to 13 have a 32% probability of accepting Christ, but youth or teens aged 14 to 18 have only a 4% probability of doing so. Adults age 19 and over have just a 6% probability of becoming Christians. This data illustrates the importance of influencing children to consider making a decision to follow Christ. How we live our lives in front of our children matters. Regardless of how much they rebel against as they grow up, they imitate us, they watch us. Our beliefs will be their beliefs. Our children are our mini-me’s whether we like it or not.

Just saying that they will catch this Christ thing on their own. Just saying that how I behave in front of my kids doesn’t matter and that they will not remember is just wrong. They do remember. They do imitate what they see. They do think what they see at home is the normal way of living. They do think what they see and experience at home as the way that things are supposed to be. So, don’t be surprised that if you display immoral behavior in front of your kids that they are going to grow thinking that this behavior is normal. What we do as parents in rearing our children matters. It affects them their entire life. Sure there are twists and turns in a person’s life that are uniquely their own responsibility. I get that. We can’t blame our parents for everything. I get that. What we do as children as we grow up ultimately is our fault when we screw up. We can’t blame individual actions on our parents all our lives. We must take responsibility for our own lives. I get that. The Bible expects no less of us.

However, the Bible does tell us that we as parents have a heavy responsibility not to stack the deck against our children as they grow up. The Bible tells us to raise our children up in the ways of the Lord and they will not depart from it. Yes, our kids will grow up to make their own decisions and they will be fully responsible for them. But, we cannot make them a horse with a broken leg before they get out the gate. We must live lives that demonstrate faith in God, a life steeped in Bible study, a life that shows that we incorporate God’s Word into our decision making, a life that weighs the difference between right and wrong and choose right even if it costs us something. Let us live lives that scream of faith in the Lord. That’s the soup that we want our children to spring from. What they do after that is up to them. But we cannot, cannot give them a bad starting point for that day when they become adults.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read of the descendants of Hezron. He was the father of a great biblical figure. He, himself, was not famous among the great men of the Bible. However, he must have done something right in raising Caleb – the base level soup stock from which Caleb became a man, his dad. That idea that we are responsible for the matrix from which our kids grow up and the mighty responsibility that it is was what I thought of this morning when I read this passage, 1 Chronicles 2:18-50a. Let’s read the passage now:

18 Hezron’s son Caleb had sons from his wife Azubah and from Jerioth.[a] Her sons were named Jesher, Shobab, and Ardon. 19 After Azubah died, Caleb married Ephrathah,[b] and they had a son named Hur. 20 Hur was the father of Uri. Uri was the father of Bezalel.

21 When Hezron was sixty years old, he married Gilead’s sister, the daughter of Makir. They had a son named Segub. 22 Segub was the father of Jair, who ruled twenty-three towns in the land of Gilead. 23 (But Geshur and Aram captured the Towns of Jair[c] and also took Kenath and its sixty surrounding villages.) All these were descendants of Makir, the father of Gilead.

24 Soon after Hezron died in the town of Caleb-ephrathah, his wife Abijah gave birth to a son named Ashhur (the father of[d] Tekoa).

25 The sons of Jerahmeel, the oldest son of Hezron, were Ram (the firstborn), Bunah, Oren, Ozem, and Ahijah. 26 Jerahmeel had a second wife named Atarah. She was the mother of Onam.

27 The sons of Ram, the oldest son of Jerahmeel, were Maaz, Jamin, and Eker.

28 The sons of Onam were Shammai and Jada.

The sons of Shammai were Nadab and Abishur.

29 The sons of Abishur and his wife Abihail were Ahban and Molid.

30 The sons of Nadab were Seled and Appaim. Seled died without children, 31 but Appaim had a son named Ishi. The son of Ishi was Sheshan. Sheshan had a descendant named Ahlai.

32 The sons of Jada, Shammai’s brother, were Jether and Jonathan. Jether died without children, 33 but Jonathan had two sons named Peleth and Zaza.

These were all descendants of Jerahmeel.

34 Sheshan had no sons, though he did have daughters. He also had an Egyptian servant named Jarha. 35 Sheshan gave one of his daughters to be the wife of Jarha, and they had a son named Attai.

36

Attai was the father of Nathan.

Nathan was the father of Zabad.

37

Zabad was the father of Ephlal.

Ephlal was the father of Obed.

38

Obed was the father of Jehu.

Jehu was the father of Azariah.

39

Azariah was the father of Helez.

Helez was the father of Eleasah.

40

Eleasah was the father of Sismai.

Sismai was the father of Shallum.

41

Shallum was the father of Jekamiah.

Jekamiah was the father of Elishama.

Descendants of Hezron’s Son Caleb

42 The descendants of Caleb, the brother of Jerahmeel, included Mesha (the firstborn), who became the father of Ziph. Caleb’s descendants also included the sons of Mareshah, the father of Hebron.[e]

43 The sons of Hebron were Korah, Tappuah, Rekem, and Shema. 44 Shema was the father of Raham. Raham was the father of Jorkeam. Rekem was the father of Shammai. 45 The son of Shammai was Maon. Maon was the father of Beth-zur.

46 Caleb’s concubine Ephah gave birth to Haran, Moza, and Gazez. Haran was the father of Gazez.

47 The sons of Jahdai were Regem, Jotham, Geshan, Pelet, Ephah, and Shaaph.

48 Another of Caleb’s concubines, Maacah, gave birth to Sheber and Tirhanah. 49 She also gave birth to Shaaph (the father of Madmannah) and Sheva (the father of Macbenah and Gibea). Caleb also had a daughter named Acsah.

50 These were all descendants of Caleb.

These are names in a genealogy of Hezron. Many of these names mean nothing to us as Bible readers. It is hard to read them without beginning to lose focus that this genealogical reference is, too, part of the Word of God. However, there are names that do jump out at you. For example, one of the descendants of Hezron is Caleb. Caleb is the son of Hezron. Caleb is one of the mighty biblical figures. He is one of the twelve spies that were sent out to case the Promised Land. He is only one of two that came back with positive reports. Among them was Caleb, representing the tribe of Judah. The twelve men spied out the land for forty days and then came back to Moses. They reported that the land was indeed fruitful but its inhabitants were the mighty descendants of Anak. Terrified by the size and strength of the Canaanites, ten of the spies warned Moses not to enter Canaan (Numbers 13:23–33). Caleb silenced the murmuring, fearful men by saying, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30). Caleb took his stand because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly (Joshua 14:8–9). Caleb knew of the promises of God to the Israelites, and, despite the evidence of his own eyes regarding the obstacles, he had faith that God would give them victory over the Canaanites.

Unfortunately, the people of Israel ignored Caleb and listened to the report of the other spies. They were so frightened that they wept all night and even wished they had died at the hands of their slave masters in Egypt (Numbers 14:1–4). They turned on Caleb and Joshua (the spy from Ephraim) and wanted to stone them on the spot (Numbers 14:6–10). God was exceedingly angry with the people and threatened to destroy them until Moses interceded for them. God relented, but He decreed that the people would wander in the wilderness until all of that faithless generation had died. But God said that “my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly” and gave him the promise that he would own all the land he had seen as a spy (Numbers 14:11–24).

We set the stage for who our kids become by how we live. They are fully and completely responsible for their own actions but the garden from which they spring is our responsibility as parents. Let us not stack the deck against them by how we act and live our lives in front them. Our children are our greatest imitators. Since we are the single greatest influence in their lives, then, our lives are their reference point. May we be a Hezron to our Calebs. May we not handicap our children from the start with the way we demonstrate life in front of them. May we demonstrate a life of faith in the Lord in front of them just as Hezron had to have done in front of Caleb. Think about it!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 2:9-17

From Judah’s Grandson to David

What will be your dash? It’s the age-old Christian commentary about the dash between a person’s date of birth and their date of death on a tombstone represents the life that we lived in between birth and death. What will be said of our lives? What will be said of our dash?

In wading through the lengthy genealogies at the beginning of 1 Chronicles (and they are quite extensive, taking up the first nine chapters), we know that it was Israelites who were living in captivity’s way of tying themselves back to the past of the once-great nation. I get it. It’s family history. It is making a displaced people feel like they belong to something greater than their current condition. I get it. However, not being part of the ancient Israelite people, these genealogies are in and of themselves not very inspiring. However, when you pick out names that you know from the previous books that come before 1 Chronicles, it’s like a montage episode, a flashback episode, an anniversary special episode of one your favorite television shows. You can pick out names and say oh yeah I remember that person’s story. These genealogies then give you an opportunity to reflect on the totality of that person’s life as played out in the story from somewhere in Genesis to 2 Kings. Today’s character that pops out at you is David.

He is one of the greats of the Bible. To the Jewish people of the biblical era, he was a great man. He represented the height of Israel as a unified kingdom. He represented the greatest extent of the land area of the ancient Israelite kingdom. He, himself, represented the standard for a godly king. He represented a man that was passionate about doing God’s will. His story is one of warning too as well. His sin weaknesses created the cracks in the kingdom that nearly destroyed him as a father and as a king. It is these cracks in the foundation of the kingdom that would ultimately lead to its complete fracture into two weaker kingdoms. His blind spots to his greatest sin weaknesses such as the pleasures of women and his unwillingness to be a real father to his children are warnings to us as men. His story is one that demonstrates to us that our sins will have consequences for a long time, even after we have repented of them. His story is a warning to us to think twice about making the choice to follow our flesh into actions that we KNOW are wrong. His story is a warning to us to listen to wise counsel about when we have sinned. His story is one that warns us to repent of our sins, drop our pride and trying to protect our reputation and position, and try to correct the wrongs that have been caused by our sins.

Further, his story is a warning to all parents. We must be actively involved in our kids lives. We must be willing more to be their parents than their friends. We must correct them when they have done wrong. We must show them tough love when it’s in their best interest. We must let them fall on their face at times in life so that they learn that there are consequences to their actions or their inactions. We must also defend them when they have been wronged. We must also keep right and wrong in mind when there is a conflict between children that we love equally. In those situations, where our children are in conflict with one another, we must be able to defend one and punish the other. We must demonstrate to them that each child will be judged by God’s definitions of right and wrong and that we will be the family enforcer of God’s plan for families. We must be parents first and always to them no matter their age. We must place raising our kids up in the right way as more important than any job that we have. Even if our job is a super-important one to the company, organization, or even a nation, we must be fathers first and leaders outside our family second. David’s problems in this area, that of being a real parent to his kids almost killed him and these problems dogged him throughout his reign as king.

However, for all his failings as a father and as man, what is David remember most for? It is not his failings but rather his love of God. He was known as “a man after God’s own heart!” For all the adultery, conspiracy to commit murder, and just downright bad parenting, David is best known for his passion for the Lord. David ultimately repented for all his sins, accepted all the one-time and ongoing consequences of his sins, and was restored to the God he loved. That was his dash. Redemption. Restoration. Passion for the Lord.

His dash screams loudly to us as Christ followers in the 21st century. With that in mind, let’s read this genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2:9-17 and pause at David’s name and think of him before moving on to the next name in the list. Let’s read it now:

9 The sons of Hezron were Jerahmeel, Ram, and Caleb.[a]

10

Ram was the father of Amminadab.

Amminadab was the father of Nahshon, a leader of Judah.

11

Nahshon was the father of Salmon.[b]

Salmon was the father of Boaz.

12

Boaz was the father of Obed.

Obed was the father of Jesse.

13 Jesse’s first son was Eliab, his second was Abinadab, his third was Shimea, 14 his fourth was Nethanel, his fifth was Raddai, 15 his sixth was Ozem, and his seventh was David.

16 Their sisters were named Zeruiah and Abigail. Zeruiah had three sons named Abishai, Joab, and Asahel. 17 Abigail married a man named Jether, an Ishmaelite, and they had a son named Amasa.

In this passage, we are reminded that David is one of the best-known people of the Bible. From Scripture, we know that he was in no way a perfect man, but he exemplified what it means to seek God first in all areas of life. God called David “a man after his own heart” (see Acts 13:22) because of David’s passionate desire to serve and worship the Lord. From the story of David, we can take instruction. Although we will not always be perfect, we can please God in the same way by making God our first consideration in all our desires and plans.

In David’s story, we can take heart that we, too, though not perfect, can be men and women after God’s own heart. In David’s story, we can find that our sins have long ranging consequences even if we are “after God’s own heart!”. We see that the consequences of our sins must be dealt with and that the consequences often do not go away after repentance from them. We are forgiven our sins through repentance but God never said he would take away the consequences of those sins. But part of repenting of our sins is humbling accepting the consequences of our sins and working to make things right. David teaches us of imperfections but yet of a continuing desire to shake those things off and continue loving the Lord.

David loved the Lord and learned from his consequences. David loved the Lord and accepted God’s correction and instruction with humility. But most of all, David loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. He was not perfect but, man, did he love the Lord. He was not perfect and most of all he knew it. He relied on the Lord not his imperfect self. He loved the Lord with passion. He was a man after God’s own heart.

May that be said of you and me. May that be our dash. May that be the thing that people remember about us and use as instructive. What phrase or what single word will come to mind when people reflect on your life? What better compliment can be paid than for people to say that you were a man or a woman “after God’s own heart!” May that be your dash. May that be my dash.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 2:1-8

Descendants of Israel & Judah

It is interesting to think about how my life has taken its twists and turns that have led me to this place, being the pastor of Lamar United Methodist Church. I am sure that there are folks that live in Travelers Rest, SC and Greenville, SC that would chuckle quite a bit if they heard that I was now a pastor. I grew up as a preacher’s kid. I was even in church for many years after adulthood through the end of my first marriage. But as a teenager and as a person in my twenties and early thirties, I attended church in name and space only. As the old saying goes, “I went to church on Sunday and lived like hell the rest of the week.” Sure, there were moments of deep reflection at good sermons along the way and I thought I was a good person to offset my lack of adherence to the right way of living. In those days, I thought of Christianity as being about do’s and don’ts. And, I just couldn’t maintain that right path with the pull of the pleasures of this world. Add to that, my first wife’s family church (that my dad served for 4 years and then I stayed after marriage) resembled more of a social club than it did a spirit-filled and challenging church. So, after my first marriage disintegrated when I was 31, I quit going to church for about 7 or 8 years. It was not until I was 39 years old and it was December 2001 that I accepted Christ as my Savior.

He may have been my Savior but the Holy Spirit had much to do to make Jesus my Lord. It was a baby Christian from a spiritual maturity standpoint for a long time. It was not until I met Pastor Luke Brower in August 2009 that I began to really grow up, spiritually speaking. From Luke, the Lord handed me off to Pastor Jeff Hickman at LifeSong Church and then to Pastor Tim Bowman of Calvary Church. Under the leadership of these men, I was forged into a willing soul to follow God’s calling on my heart. Other men such as Dr. William Cashion and Dr. Larry McDonald at North Greenville University where I got my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry degree were influential in shaping my call to ministry. And now, here I am today about to preach my 20th sermon at Lamar UMC this Sunday morning in the fall of 2019.

I am sure there are people that would laugh. I am sure that there are people that would say that I may have been mean or hurt them over the years that would say that they cannot believe I am a pastor. But that’s the thing, we can change our outcome through Jesus Christ. He can change us and mold us into something made useful to the kingdom. When I look back at the man that I used to be (and not that I am some super-virtuous person now), I am amazed at where God has me now. I have to chuckle myself. It just amazes me sometimes that people even call me pastor. I am humbled by what I am now vs. what I was before Jesus radically changed my life from the inside out (and is still changing me from the inside out). I am humbled by the family legacy of pastoral ministry of which I am now a part. Where would I be without that providential favor from God? But yet, here I am. I am thankful that the Lord has me where He has me. I know with each passing week that this is what I was called to do. All of it (even on those weeks where I am just completely worn out by the end of the week).

It does not matter how you start the raise or even how you are doing in the middle of the race. It matters how you finish the race. Could you imagine the thoughts and words of disbelief of many of the early Christians when Paul became a Christian? Shock, disbelief, fear, anger, among other emotions. But the Christian-murdering Paul went on to become the most influential man in Christianity outside of Jesus Christ himself. It’s not how you start the race, it’s how you end it.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through 1 Chronicles 2:1-8 this morning and I read about this guy, Er. Here, he is mentioned just this once in the Bible (as far as I can tell) and the only mention is that he was a wicked man and that God judged him for it. That’s it. It got me to thinking about what people in my past may think of me being a minister. That thought led me to think of the wonderful Reclaimer, Jesus Christ and how He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us after we accept Him as our Savior. How sad it must be that Er’s story is complete and he was judged as evil. How sad for Er’s eternity. Let us read this passage now:

Chapter 2

1 The sons of Israel[a] were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, 2 Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.

Descendants of Judah

3 Judah had three sons from Bathshua, a Canaanite woman. Their names were Er, Onan, and Shelah. But the Lord saw that the oldest son, Er, was a wicked man, so he killed him. 4 Later Judah had twin sons from Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law. Their names were Perez and Zerah. So Judah had five sons in all.

5 The sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul.

6 The sons of Zerah were Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Darda[b]—five in all.

7 The son of Carmi (a descendant of Zimri) was Achan,[c] who brought disaster on Israel by taking plunder that had been set apart for the Lord.[d]

8 The son of Ethan was Azariah.

In this genealogy, not only do we see a list of names but also insights into some of the people named. Here, almost as an epitaph, the genealogy states that Er “was a wicked man” so the Lord killed him (v. 3). Now, thousands of years later, this statement is all we know of the man. Each of us is forging a reputation, developing personal qualities by which we will be remembered. How would God summarize your life up to now? Some defiantly claim that how they live their lives is their own business. However, Scripture teaches us that the way we live today will determine how you will be remembered by others and how you will be judged by God in the absence of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Where will your story finish? Will you be judged as evil by the Lord? We all would be in the absence of accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. We all would be based on the merits of our lives in front of the just and righteous Judge, our Father in heaven. I know I would be. Even now as a pastor, I would still fall short of the perfection needed to exist in heaven with the Father. It is only through the reclamation project that Jesus started in my life in December 2001 that I can fully expect to be in heaven with my Father in heaven. It is only through the grace covering of Jesus Christ that I will not pay the penalty for my sin-filled nature. Just one sin condemns us much less a fully-loaded lifetime of sins that we commit. We have no leg to stand on. On our own merits, we are Er. We are and will be judged as evil and condemned to an eternity in hell in the absence of accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. It is only then that His perfection, his holiness, his purity, all those things that we need to be in the presence of God in heaven, are imputed to us.

If God was writing your epitaph today, what would He say? Would He judge you with the same sentence as Er? It’s never too late to accept Jesus as your Savior. It’s not how you start the race. It’s not how you are running the race now. It’s how you finish.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 1:34-54 (Part 3 of 3)

Descendants of Isaac

When I read this passage and saw that includes the names of the Edomite line that descends from Esau.  I wondered why. They were enemies of God’s people. The Chronicles books were a recounting of Israelite history after they had been exiled to Babylon so this was a looking back not a history being written as the events happened as is the Kings books. Therefore, the Edomites were known enemies with which the Israelites had fought with for centuries off and on. Why, then, recount the names of a group of people that simply and mortally hate you? It was because they were descended from Adam. They were part of the descendants of Abraham. They were the people of Abraham’s grandson, Esau. That struck of how God remembers us all. When I went to LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC, they had a motto that said, “Every person has a name and every name is important!” That meant that we as church members should make every person feel welcome, learn their name, and make them feel that they are an important part of our church family. That’s what this passage screams out to me that each one of us is important to God regardless of whether we have come to Him yet or not. It tells us that we should not judge people or write them off as not worth the effort. It says we should not categorize people as not worth our time or investment. It says that we should not judge people and pigeon-hole them based on our own preconceived notions of who they are.

That idea of pigeon-holing people somewhat reminds of my first experience in a full-time ministry position. I was titled director of business services/staff pastor. However, as time went by in the position, it became clear that the staff pastor part of the position was title only. There were never any opportunities afforded to allow my pastoral skills to be developed. The only pastoral duties that I performed were those that I informally was able to create through the vast number of relationships that we were able to build with church members as a confidant, a friend who listened, a counselor,  a marriage mentor, a small group leader. However, from an actual job point of view, it appeared that I had been categorized as an accountant and not a pastor to be developed. It is only now that I am the solo pastor of a small church in South Carolina that my pastoral passions are able to come to fruition.

I love my job as the pastor of Lamar United Methodist Church. Being the solo pastor means that there are a myriad of balls that I have to keep in the air at the same time. It is a challenging job just in and of itself keeping the current number of balls in the air at the same time. It is also challenging as to the future road of this church as it looks to make a bigger impression on our community for the Lord. But all of it has me finally in the sweet spot that God wants me to be in. The sweet spot that even my previous job prepared me for. God has me in the this place, for these people, for this time at just the right time for them and for me. Sure, I look back at my previous position and wonder why I was not allowed to flourish in pastoral duties. However, there were things that God had me learn there that can be used in this current challenge. But I thank God that I am now able to do what He called me to do and be – to pastor. I thank Him for the trail of experience that brought me to this place at this time. That God thought my name was important. That God thought enough to prepare me for this place at the time I would be ready for it – through all my experiences of the past.

The experience is a reminder that I should not and you should not simply categorize and label people as not worth the investment. We should not look at a person’s past and say that their past is indicative of their value for the future. We should not say you are this, so you can’t be that. What if God was that way with us? What if he labeled us as not worth the pursuit? What if He just wrote us off? That idea of each person being important to God and for us not to label people as not worth the effort is what I thought of this morning when I read about the Edomites in this passage. Let’s read the passage now, 1 Chronicles 1:34-54 for the third of three blogs about this passage.

34 Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel.[a]

Descendants of Esau

35 The sons of Esau were Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah.

36 The descendants of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho,[b] Gatam, Kenaz, and Amalek, who was born to Timna.[c]

37 The descendants of Reuel were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.

Original Peoples of Edom

38 The descendants of Seir were Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan.

39 The descendants of Lotan were Hori and Hemam.[d] Lotan’s sister was named Timna.

40 The descendants of Shobal were Alvan,[e] Manahath, Ebal, Shepho,[f] and Onam.

The descendants of Zibeon were Aiah and Anah.

41 The son of Anah was Dishon.

The descendants of Dishon were Hemdan,[g] Eshban, Ithran, and Keran.

42 The descendants of Ezer were Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan.[h]

The descendants of Dishan[i] were Uz and Aran.

Rulers of Edom

43 These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites[j]:

Bela son of Beor, who ruled from his city of Dinhabah.

44 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah became king in his place.

45 When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites became king in his place.

46 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad became king in his place and ruled from the city of Avith. He was the one who destroyed the Midianite army in the land of Moab.

47 When Hadad died, Samlah from the city of Masrekah became king in his place.

48 When Samlah died, Shaul from the city of Rehoboth-on-the-River became king in his place.

49 When Shaul died, Baal-hanan son of Acbor became king in his place.

50 When Baal-hanan died, Hadad became king in his place and ruled from the city of Pau.[k] His wife was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred and granddaughter of Me-zahab. 51 Then Hadad died.

The clan leaders of Edom were Timna, Alvah,[l] Jetheth, 52 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 53 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 54 Magdiel, and Iram. These are the clan leaders of Edom.

In this passage, we see that we must ask the question, “Why are we given information about the descendants of Edom, who were the mortal enemies of the Israelites? Esau, ancestor of the Edomites, was Isaac’s oldest son and thus a direct descendant of Abraham. As Abraham’s first grandson, he deserved a place in the Jewish records. It was through Esau’s marriages to pagan women that the nation of Edom began. This genealogy shows the ancestry of enemy nations. They were not a part of the direct lineage of King David and, thus, the Messiah. This listing then does two things. First, it further solidifies Israel’s special identity and role. Second, it shows that even the enemies of God’s people are known by name by our Father in heaven. For us, that means even if we are far from God, and as a result, at odds with God, He still knows us personally. It signifies that every person is special to God even when we do not know His Son as our Savior and Lord. We thank God for that. He pursues us with a relentless love even when we are running away from Him. This passage seen in that light reminds us, as Christians, that non-believers no matter how far they have run and no matter what they have done are worth the effort. No one has done anything so bad that God forgets their name and writes them off. We, then, should never write people off nor should we judge people by what they have done in the past. God forgives the past when there is repentance and looks to the future of each person on the planet. Every one of the them.

Is there someone in your life that you have written off as not worth the effort? Is there a group of people that your church has written off as not worth investing in? Are you and I judging people as not worth sharing the gospel with? This passage reminds us that every name, every person is important to God EVEN when they seem to be running as fast as they can in the opposite direction from Him. Even people that are blatantly living in opposition to God’s Word and are reveling in the effort are known to God personally. Every name is worth the effort. We should not write people off as “they”, thus, making them not part of “us”. God relentlessly pursues everyone of us until we accept Christ as our Savior. He thinks everyone is worth the effort. He sees what each one of us can be. He has a calling for each person once they become part of the family of God. He knows their talents and exactly how they can flourish in His kingdom. We should do no less. We should not judge people as not worth our investment of time, talents, and resources. We should not judge people as not worth pursuing so as to show them the love of Jesus Christ. We should relentlessly pursue the unchurched in our midst until they come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Every person has a name and every name is important!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 1:34-54 (Part 2 of 3)

Descendants of Isaac

Yesterday, we talked about how one comment in 1966 from my grandfather to one of my uncles set in motion a history of enmity between my uncle and the rest of his blood family that lasted over 5 decades. There are cousins out there that I know nothing about other than meeting them one time in the mid-1970s when my father was trying to mediate the rift between my grandfather and my uncle. These cousins most likely have their own version of history as to who we of the Ralph Bowling, Sr. clan (my grandfather, his four other sons and their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren). They do not know the real us and do not know the real story behind the family rift. Stubbornness on the part of my grandfather and my uncle caused most likely a continental drift between the truth of what happened in 1966 and the reality that my uncle most likely constructed for his family (his children and their progeny). It is a sad tale of stubbornness that led to a leg of my grandfather’s genealogical tree that was chopped off and became an independent tree. It is a sad tale of where the lack of reconciliation led to reasons being piled on reasons for hatred, distrust and a forever wound that would never heal. It led to a litany of reasons why the relationships could never be joined again. All because of a stupid comment, a lack of forgiveness, pride, and a series of actions that piled up that would forever prevent reconciliation to the point that the current generations within our family. There are cousins I have out there that I met once but who have a completely different version of history to support their dad’s idea of who we are and why he had to continue his hatred of his own blood family.

Sometimes in today’s America, we wonder why the Middle East is such a volatile powder keg of a region of the world. We just don’t get sometimes why everyone there just can’t get along. No matter how many peace accords Western nations have tried to broker in the Middle East, the region seems to be forever a place of war and that it is hopelessly lost in conflict. The hatred in the region is so completely embedded in the psyche of groups of people that it seems hopeless to ever combat these fundamental hatreds. We wonder why. This is where the Old Testament intersects with our modern age. If you wonder why the region is so embroiled in hatred. It goes back over 6,000 years and thousands of generations of differing versions of the truth. The roots of the hatred go back to Jacob and Esau and Ishmael and Isaac. The Old Testament is more than just a construct of interesting stories. It is the basis of who we are as a world of people groups. It is a testament to the fractured world in which we live in which pride and arrogance are at the root of all the conflict in the world and how we have gotten to where we are today. We are all cousins dating back to the genealogies here 1 Chronicles. Yet, things happened during these early genealogies forever caused diversions of paths of people. To justify hatred among brothers and cousins for generations, versions of truth were developed to justify the diversions of family trees.

It’s that idea of justifying hatred that becomes institutionalized in families is what I thought of this morning. Let’s read the passage now, 1 Chronicles 1:34-54 for the second of three blogs about this passage.

34 Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel.[a]

Descendants of Esau

35 The sons of Esau were Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah.

36 The descendants of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho,[b] Gatam, Kenaz, and Amalek, who was born to Timna.[c]

37 The descendants of Reuel were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.

Original Peoples of Edom

38 The descendants of Seir were Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan.

39 The descendants of Lotan were Hori and Hemam.[d] Lotan’s sister was named Timna.

40 The descendants of Shobal were Alvan,[e] Manahath, Ebal, Shepho,[f] and Onam.

The descendants of Zibeon were Aiah and Anah.

41 The son of Anah was Dishon.

The descendants of Dishon were Hemdan,[g] Eshban, Ithran, and Keran.

42 The descendants of Ezer were Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan.[h]

The descendants of Dishan[i] were Uz and Aran.

Rulers of Edom

43 These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites[j]:

Bela son of Beor, who ruled from his city of Dinhabah.

44 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah became king in his place.

45 When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites became king in his place.

46 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad became king in his place and ruled from the city of Avith. He was the one who destroyed the Midianite army in the land of Moab.

47 When Hadad died, Samlah from the city of Masrekah became king in his place.

48 When Samlah died, Shaul from the city of Rehoboth-on-the-River became king in his place.

49 When Shaul died, Baal-hanan son of Acbor became king in his place.

50 When Baal-hanan died, Hadad became king in his place and ruled from the city of Pau.[k] His wife was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred and granddaughter of Me-zahab. 51 Then Hadad died.

The clan leaders of Edom were Timna, Alvah,[l] Jetheth, 52 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 53 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 54 Magdiel, and Iram. These are the clan leaders of Edom.

In this passage, we see that Amalek. He is the grandson of Esau and was the son of his father’s (Timma’s) concubine (see Genesis 36:12). He was the ancestor of the wicked tribe known as the Amalekites, the first people to attack Israel on their way to the Promised Land. To understand, the significance of this genealogical reference, we first must review some biblical history.

For ancient Jewish readers, Amalek is swept into the long story of God’s faithfulness to Israel, the complicated choosing of a king, and the protection of God’s people from their enemies. That the Amalekites became an evil and wicked people that had deep hatred of the Israelites take us back to the root of it, Jacob and Esau. Scripture records the long-lasting feud between the Amalekites and the Israelites and God’s direction to wipe the Amalekites off the face of the earth (Exodus 17:8–13; 1 Samuel 15:2; Deuteronomy 25:17). Why God would call His people to exterminate an entire tribe is a difficult question, but a look at history may give some insight.

Like many desert tribes, the Amalekites were nomadic. Numbers 13:29 places them as native to the Negev, the desert between Egypt and Canaan. The Babylonians called them the Sute, Egyptians the Sittiu, and the Amarna tablets refer to them as the Khabbati, or “plunderers.” The Amalekites’ unrelenting brutality toward the Israelites began with an attack at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8–13). This is recounted in Deuteronomy 25:17–19 with this admonition: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind [typically women and children]: they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”

The Amalekites later joined with the Canaanites and attacked the Israelites at Hormah (Numbers 14:45). In Judges they banded with the Moabites (Judges 3:13) and the Midianites (Judges 6:3) to wage war on the Israelites. They were responsible for the repeated destruction of the Israelites’ land and food supply.

In 1 Samuel 15:2–3, God tells King Saul, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them, put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

In response, King Saul first warns the Kenites, friends of Israel, to leave the area. He then attacks the Amalekites but does not complete the task. He allows the Amalekite King Agag to live, takes plunder for himself and his army, and lies about the reason for doing so. Saul’s rebellion against God and His commands is so serious that he is rejected by God as king (1 Samuel 15:23). The escaped Amalekites continued to harass and plunder the Israelites in successive generations that spanned hundreds of years. First Samuel 30 reports an Amalekite raid on Ziklag, a Judean village where David held property. The Amalekites burned the village and took captive all the women and children, including two of David’s wives. David and his men defeated the Amalekites and rescued all the hostages. A few hundred Amalekites escaped, however. Much later, during the reign of King Hezekiah, a group of Simeonites “killed the remaining Amalekites” who had been living in the hill country of Seir (1 Chronicles 4:42–43).

The last mention of the Amalekites is found in the book of Esther where Haman the Agagite, a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag, connives to have all the Jews in Persia annihilated by order of King Xerxes. God saved the Jews in Persia, however, and Haman, his sons, and the rest of Israel’s enemies were destroyed instead (Esther 9:5–10). The Amalekites’ hatred of the Jews by this point was institutionalized and was just part of the psyche of the people. At some point, they just hated the Jews because it was part of the engrained culture of the people, not really knowing why. It just was. You find that this state of affairs continue to this day in the Middle East.

So, the takeaway this morning is to stop the madness before it becomes institutionalized hatred. The Amalekites and the Israelites were related to each other. But ultimately the separation of the family trees led to different lifestyles, different histories, and institutionalized hatred that just is part of who you are. To unravel that is difficult when it becomes part of the basis of the culture.

Each of us may have people in our lives that we have come to dislike and even hate. And we are passing those hatreds along to our children. It just becomes part of the family culture deeply engrained. To unravel it is difficult. Is there someone you need to forgive before it becomes layered into the generations of your family? Are you constructing a reality that justifies hating someone as being OK? Let us take hold of ourselves and realize that God could easily hate us and give us no chance. He could write us off and be justified in it. We have constructed our version of ourselves that is far from the real truth of the real us that God knows. He could just write us off. However, He loves us even when we are flaunting our rebellion in his face. He loves us so much that He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. His name is Jesus. He made a way for us to end the animosity between us and Him. He made a way.

Is there someone that you should show the same forgiveness? Is there someone that you have constructed a reality where your hatred is justified? Is there someone with whom you may be creating a generational hatred between your family and theirs? Is there someone you just need to lay down your pride and forgive? God has done no less for us? Let us end the war right here. Let us show the same love for others that God has shown us through Jesus Christ!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 1:34-54 (Part 1 of 3)

Descendants of Isaac

In this section of the genealogies of 1 Chronicles we see the lineage of Isaac whose sons were Jacob and Esau. It reminds you of what family rifts can do to a family. There are those watershed moments in family life where things get said or things get done and there is this huge family blow-up. After the blow-up, family members don’t talk to each other for a long time. If it is allowed to continue, the thing that caused the blow-up gets warped out of proportion and families sometimes never heal from the wounds caused.

In my extended family, this very thing did happen. There was a visit to my grandparent’s house (at that time, they owned a farm in northern Spartanburg [SC] County) by my uncle Doug. This was way back in 1966. I was 4 at the time and was not there and all of this information was shared over the years by my dad. Back then, in 1966, my uncle Doug was about 23 and my grandad, Pop, was around 51. The visit was to inform Pop and Granny that Doug and Marlene were going to adopt children, two girls, because they were unable to conceive on their own. Somewhere in this fateful conversation, my grandad, the rough, group, no filter, full of sarcastic humor, guy that he was, said something to the effect of Doug not being a man because he could not impregnate his wife. Knowing Pop as I came to know him over the years, it was just him trying to be sarcastically funny. However, this was a situation where that type of humor was not what was called for. But Pop being Pop, with no filter between his thoughts and his mouth, he said it. It was out there. Uncle Doug did not take it well at all. In fact, he immediately got up and departed Pop and Granny’s house and slammed the front door so hard that it shattered the glass in the door. Surely, there were other things brewing between Pop and Uncle Doug and this was just the final straw. That day, in 1966, effectively ended the relationship between Uncle Doug and our extended family (Pop, Granny, the four other brothers and all of us kids of those four remaining brothers). Within a few years after the blow-up, my Uncle Doug went as far as to tell others that his parents had died when he was young and publicly claimed a couple in Spartanburg with whom he had a close relationship as his parents. It got THAT bad.

The rift in the family was never healed. Uncle Doug never came around the family again. Although my dad tried to mediate the rift several times over the first decade of the rift, it was never healed. No one stepped forward. Neither Pop or Doug was willing to give ground to one another. When my grandfather passed away suddenly in the Summer of 1979, nothing changed for Doug. Further down the road, when my grandmother passed away in 2009, nothing changed for Doug in all those 30 years and now that both the parents were gone. Between 2009 and Doug’s death in 2015, there were no attempts by Doug to reconcile with his brothers and their families. The remaining brothers did not wish to have things the way they were but over the years, their efforts to reconcile with Doug had always been thwarted. They took the approach that if he wanted to be part of the family, it was his call. So, sometimes, one act, one moment in time becomes a permanent fracture in families. Sometimes, we offer so much forgiveness to others but yet offer absolutely none to family.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I reflected on this particular part of the genealogies presented in 1 Chronicles 1. The fact that Esau never reconciled with his brother, the fact that Esau’s descendants became enemies of the nation of Israel/Judah, all of it began over some stew, literally. Little thing led to a little bigger thing, selling a birthright for the stew, that became a rift in the family. Mistakes were made all around and yet it was never healed. Forgiveness was not part of the equation for these very real people. Let’s read the passage now, 1 Chronicles 1:34-54 for the first of three blogs about this passage.

34 Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel.[a]

Descendants of Esau

35 The sons of Esau were Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah.

36 The descendants of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho,[b] Gatam, Kenaz, and Amalek, who was born to Timna.[c]

37 The descendants of Reuel were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.

Original Peoples of Edom

38 The descendants of Seir were Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan.

39 The descendants of Lotan were Hori and Hemam.[d] Lotan’s sister was named Timna.

40 The descendants of Shobal were Alvan,[e] Manahath, Ebal, Shepho,[f] and Onam.

The descendants of Zibeon were Aiah and Anah.

41 The son of Anah was Dishon.

The descendants of Dishon were Hemdan,[g] Eshban, Ithran, and Keran.

42 The descendants of Ezer were Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan.[h]

The descendants of Dishan[i] were Uz and Aran.

Rulers of Edom

43 These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites[j]:

Bela son of Beor, who ruled from his city of Dinhabah.

44 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah became king in his place.

45 When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites became king in his place.

46 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad became king in his place and ruled from the city of Avith. He was the one who destroyed the Midianite army in the land of Moab.

47 When Hadad died, Samlah from the city of Masrekah became king in his place.

48 When Samlah died, Shaul from the city of Rehoboth-on-the-River became king in his place.

49 When Shaul died, Baal-hanan son of Acbor became king in his place.

50 When Baal-hanan died, Hadad became king in his place and ruled from the city of Pau.[k] His wife was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred and granddaughter of Me-zahab. 51 Then Hadad died.

The clan leaders of Edom were Timna, Alvah,[l] Jetheth, 52 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 53 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 54 Magdiel, and Iram. These are the clan leaders of Edom.

In this passage, we see that Israel is another name for Jacob, the name given to him by God (Genesis 32:28). Israel means “someone who struggles with God”. Israel’s (Jacob’s) 12 sons become the nation of Israel. Esau’s descendants became the nation of Edom, a constant enemy of Israel. Esau was a manly, man. He was the consummate outdoorsman. He was the eldest son of Isaac and being born first, he had the natural rights given to the eldest son (birthright). Jacob got his name from the birth process too as after “his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob” (Gen 25:26).

The author of Hebrews warns against a root of bitterness springing up and says

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Heb 12:15-17).

A “root of bitterness” did spring up from Esau and it is understandable in a sense because Jacob tricked him into giving him Esau’s birthright for one simple meal. Jacob took advantage of Esau’s hunger and exhaustion but this also proved that Esau didn’t really appreciate his birthright (despised it) and gave it away to satisfy his appetite. In other words, Esau gave up his birthright and all the blessings that went with that, to satisfy the flesh but for a moment.

My Uncle Doug allow a root of bitterness toward my grandfather to fester into a forest of bitterness that separated him from his family for a half a century. It is only now that they are all in heaven that they will be reunited. In this passage, the root of bitterness created a nation of people that were bitter enemies of Israel/Judah. All of it could have been avoided with a little forgiveness and Esau’s descendants would have been a part of God’s chosen people rather than enemies of them.

Let us all look at our family situations. Are there things going on in your family where pride has gotten in the way of forgiveness. What if God did not forgive us for our sins. Let us love the way God loves. Sure, there are things that we all sometimes have to apologize for. There are things that we have to eat our pride about. There are things that we just need to sit down and talk out. Love should always win. Not pride. See what pride did to the Edomites vs. the Israelites. It did not have to be that way. Neither does it in your family.

Remember, we offend God. We grieve God. We cause tears in His eyes because of our blatant rebellion against His will for us. Yet, He loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins even though we don’t deserve a daggum bit of it. We don’t deserve God’s love an forgiveness, but He thinks of our eternal future as being greater than His being right about our inability to be good children. He loves us anyway. Is there someone in your family that you just need to love anyway?

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 1:24-33

Descendants of Abraham

We all got stuff. We all got family messes. Here in this passage we see the lineage of Abraham. There are three lines of descendants that come from Abraham as we see in this passage. We see the honored line, the descendants of Abraham through his first wife, Sarah. We also though see his descendants through his maidservant/concubine, Hagar. We also see that he had children through a more obscure woman, Keturah who in Genesis is referred to as his wife but here in Chronicles it says she was his concubine. Regardless of Keturah’s status (some think she started out as his concubine and later became Abraham’s wife after Sarah’s death), she is the third woman by which Abraham had children. This used to be stuff only of soap operas on afternoon television. Now, it is a reality of life in our fractured society.

As we know from Genesis, the whole Hagar episode with kids by two women, Abraham had a whole lot of trouble as a result. Sarah became jealous of Hagar almost immediately after she became pregnant. Did Abraham learn nothing from that whole sordid episode at the beginning of Ishmael’s life. It seems not. He went on to have multiple children by a concubine who would later become his wife, after Sarah’s death. No matter what way we look at this thing or try to justify theologically, there was a mess created by all of this. Multiple children by different wives. Inheritance passing only through one line of children. The lineage of God’s people traced through only one line of Abraham’s children. The other two lines of children become nations that either were enemies of God’s people or help God’s people of Israel and Judah to fall into idolatry.

I don’t know about any of you out there reading this, but this stuff is like ripped out of real life in the 21st century. Today, most people nowadays will have on average two marriages in their lifetime. When divorce happens when the children are young, you have kids with different last names from their mothers. If there are children of second marriages, you have further complications with half-brothers and sisters and so on. It can all become very complicated. Not to mention that there are often tensions between first wives and second wives that can cause trouble for everyone. In this way, the Old Testament is very instructive to us in the 21st century. It is us. We are just as messed up as the people and stories of the Old Testament.

Each and everyone of the characters that we consider heroes from the Old Testament all were messed up people with messed up lives. Here, we see Abraham and it reminds us of the whole Sarah-Hagar episode of Genesis. And, yet, Abraham apparently learned nothing from that ugly episode surrounding the rights and privileges that would be granted to Hagar and to Ishmael. What does Abraham do? He takes another concubine/mistress/maidservant (whatever you want to call Keturah) and has kids by her too! How messed up is that? Did he not learn anything? Sure, she became his wife later, but wow did he not learn anything from Sarah’s reaction to Hagar. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, as the old saying goes. We see the same things today. One marriage is dissatisfying so we divorce and remarry expecting different results. We become dissatisfied with the second and go onto a third and wonder why things turn out the same every time.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through the genealogy of the lines of children descended from Abraham. That idea was that Abraham had a family mess with all his kids by three women. But even with all his faults (his weakness for women being only one of them), God used him and he became a hero that we look up in the Bible:

24 So this is the family line descended from Shem: Arphaxad, Shelah,[a] 25 Eber, Peleg, Reu, 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah, 27 and Abram, later known as Abraham.

28 The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael. 29 These are their genealogical records:

The sons of Ishmael were Nebaioth (the oldest), Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, 31 Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael.

32 The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine, were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

The sons of Jokshan were Sheba and Dedan.

33 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah.

All these were descendants of Abraham through his concubine Keturah.

In this passage, we see the beginning of the line of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. In this passage, we see that son of Hagar, Ishmael, is prominently in our memory from the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. But guess what, Abraham did not only have children by Hagar but he also had children by Keturah. There has been some debate as to whether Keturah was Abraham’s wife or his concubine, since she is described as each in different places in Scripture. Genesis 25:1 says that Keturah was his wife; 1 Chronicles 1:32 calls her his concubine. Genesis 25:6 also implies that Keturah was a concubine. A concubine was a woman who willingly entered into an exclusive relationship with a man for the purposes of meeting his sexual needs or providing children for him (Hagar was considered a concubine of Abraham’s). The woman was often a slave or a single female without male protectors. A concubine did not have equal status as a wife, but, unlike a prostitute, she was provided for and considered the sole property of the man. Because Keturah was in a monogamous relationship with Abraham, she could properly be considered his “wife,” although she had a lesser rank than Sarah had enjoyed.

It could also be that Keturah had begun her relationship with Abraham as a concubine and was then promoted to official “wife status” after the death of Sarah. This would explain the differing biblical descriptions of her role. However, Keturah, the concubine-become-wife, is never referred to in Scripture with the same respect and honor that is given to Sarah as Abraham’s wife (1 Peter 3:6). You often see that too in our modern-day world where a second wife is often not given the same respect by families as a husband’s first wife for various reasons.

Regardless of the status of Keturah, the bigger idea for this devotion is that Abraham apparently had a weakness for women, just as many of our biblical heroes did. Abraham created family messes for himself with the whole Hagar-Sarah episode and apparently learned nothing from it. So, what does he do? He takes another woman later on in life, in Keturah. Abraham had a fatal flaw it appears and it was women.

The takeaway from today is two things. First, a simple and practical thing. That takeaway is that we must allow God to govern the relationships with have with the opposite sex and govern our marriages. When we are single or divorced and are in the midst of dating, help us oh Lord to depend on you to find our next mate – that person of the opposite sex that you want us to spend the rest of our lives with. Help us to trust you even if it takes a long time to find us our mate. Help us not to trust our sexual desires as defining who it is we are to be with. Sexual desires can blind us to those that we are not compatible with in the long-term. Help us not to let our desires cloud our judgment. Help us to hand that responsibility off to you. Further, help us when married to keep you at the center of our marriages so that we do not wreck our marriages because of our selfish desires and wants.

The second takeaway is that there are many of us out there that think that because we have screwed up our family lives that God would never use us and that churches would never accept us. Just look at the Bible, there are a bunch of screw-ups in there. Abraham is one of them. He was a liar and he had a weakness for women. Yet, at the same time, God helped him overcome all of his shortcomings and he became a father of the nation of Israel. His faith in God is always referenced by future biblical characters that followed him. He was considered a great man of faith. In Hebrews, he was considered one of the great hall of biblical heroes in heaven. So, what that says to me and should say to you is that regardless of the mistakes that you have made in your life, regardless of what your weaknesses are, when we place ourselves at the feet of God and ask Him to take over and help us rid ourselves of our weaknesses that is the beginning of our usefulness to Him. All of us are imperfect beings. Through salvation in Jesus Christ, we can be made wonderfully useful to God’s kingdom. Our mess that we made of our life can then become our message of the wonder of Jesus Christ in our lives. And churches? If they are worth their salt, they are full of broken people who have found life in Jesus Christ. None of them, not one of them, is perfect. Church is simply broken people gathered together singing the praises of their Savior. A church is not a place for perfect people. It is a place where broken people come together to figure out life together through their love of Jesus Christ. A church is and should be a spiritual hospital for broken people not a showplace of perfection. We should glory in the all the imperfect people that have been gathered together in our church. It should testify to the greatness of our God.

There are no perfect people in the Bible NOT NAMED JESUS. There are no perfect people in churches ONLY JESUS.

Amen and Amen.