We’ve had several reasons to reflect on history this week. I already mentioned the anniversary of the protests at Tiananmen Square and today is the 70th anniversary of the invasion at Normandy.
We’ve read through a great history of people like Abraham and Joseph, and one emphasis this week was to recognize that the history we read in Genesis is our history. We are children of Abraham because we are children of the promise by faith. So when we read of God’s promises to Israel, we stand under those promises, too.
But remember the promise God makes to Abraham. It is a promise for blessing, but God also notes that through Abraham’s family will all the families of the earth be blessed. If we are children of Abraham, we cannot merely celebrate that blessed status. We need to remember both that we receive a blessing as part of the promise, and we are to also be a blessing for all the world.
Coming back into work today I heard a story on NPR about the 25th anniversary of the events surrounding Tiananmen Square. The host was interviewing a journalist in China who was showing the famous photo from the protests to students and it seemed that more had never seen the photo than those who had. The way it was worded during the radio segment was that in China, “amnesia is a state sponsored sport.”
China has not wanted people to know parts of its past and so it has worked hard to conceal and erase history. What is amazing is that this isn’t an event from centuries ago. It isn’t a matter of destroying the records. People are alive now who were alive then. But the past is still allowed to slip away.
While we weren’t alive when the events described in the Bible took place, they are still of the utmost importance to us. God has gone to great lengths to have it recorded, preserved, and passed on through generations so that we would receive the book we have today. It is our history and it is our story. He has given us the Bible for a reason. We can’t let it slip away. We need to commit ourselves to knowing the story God has given us and make sure we remain vigilant in continuing our lives that are now, amazingly, also a part of that story.
God is not done yet for he is still active. But it helps to know where we’ve been in order to know where we’re going.
When God makes promises the timing is not always what we’d want. Abraham is promised that he will have descendants whose number will be like the stars in the sky. But then Abraham waits. He waits for a long time. And still he has no children. The promise of God was not for the next day–it was years later. It was to be fulfilled in old age, when he thought it was impossible. In the meantime Abraham took matters into his own hands and deviates from the will of God.
It seems that the trust is not always the hardest part. It is the trust carried out over time. It is the patience. Can we trust God for more than a moment? Can we trust when something promised is on the horizon or out of sight? Faith requires that we place our trust in God and then have the patience to endure.
What can help is knowing that God alone is the one who can really keep his promise. Only he is in complete control of all circumstances. So when he makes us a promise, he is always faithful. He is faithful to Abraham, and now we the descendants of Abraham can trust that he will be faithful to us.
Patience is hard, so we all probably need to pray for patience. (Although I hear that when we pray for patience, God doesn’t just make it appear. What does he do? He gives us practice. So be warned!)
I can’t help but link to this video. When I think of patience I think of the Tom Petty song, The Waiting, from which I took the title of this post. And when I think of that song, I think of this scene from The Simpsons. It’s not the best clip and leaves off the final punchline at the end–but it still gives me a chuckle.
Last week we saw how Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out of the garden. But this was not the end of hope. Humans were not then left to fend for themselves never to enjoy fellowship with God again. We saw in Ephesians 1 that God has always had a plan and eating the fruit of the tree did not thwart God.
As we continue in Genesis we see the revealing of God’s plan as he chooses Abram (later Abraham) in chapter 12 and makes promises to him. It is not a promise for Abram alone, but the great blessings that God will provide will be blessings for the whole world through Abram’s line.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Too often the Bible is read simply as a reference book. You pick it up, look up a topic in the concordance in the back of the book (if your version has one), and then go off and read on that subject. Or maybe we’re intimidated by the Old Testament because of its foreign places, unknown people, and strange religious practices and go straight for the New Testament. I’m not saying you need to read the Bible as if it were a novel, start to finish. This 10 week plan doesn’t even do that. But we miss out on the plan of God, a plan based in God’s promise, if we only read piecemeal. There is a continuing story that develops and all the promises of God to Abram will carry on throughout the marvelous book that is the Bible.