Saturday, September 22, 2007

Obstacles... and Opportunities?

There's a small creek at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia where crystal water bubbles up and flows through an obstacle course of rock and stones. I don't know where this body of water begins or where it ends. But there's a point where these stones, which have piled up and shifted over many years, have erected a barricade that makes the water's passage suddenly difficult. When the water hits this barricade, it seems to stop. Then the water curls to the left and gushes white foam out of a small, narrow passageway. The force of this liberated rushing water appears far greater than the force exhibited before it hit the rocks. Somehow the stones that held it back inevitably and powerfully also push it forward.

(Excerpted from Little Sins, Big Problems)

It feels a little weird to quote myself. But as I continue the slow, deliberative walk through Genesis this week, I am reminded of a creek in Wintergreen, Virginia, and the experience of watching an obstacle impede before it liberates.

Genesis 12: The Promise Amidst Obstacles

Old Testament History Professor Dr. Allman had this to say in one of his lectures about the account of Abraham. "God starts the blessing process with obstacles."

We see this play out in a variety of ways in Genesis as the man we first meet as "Abram" faithfully follows the path toward realization of God's promises (Gn. 12:1-3). God has told Abram that he will be made in to a "great nation." He is destined to be both famous and inordinately blessed.

What Abram may not fully appreciate at this point is that the road to this blessed end state will be filled with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The land he is slated to inherit is chock full of idol worshippers. How will Abram and a little band of followers displace the wild and debauched Canaanites? In verse 7, God speaks of a legacy blessing to Abram's "descendants." Problem is, his wife, Sarai, is infertile, which didn't bode well for natural heirs. Abram also has limited knowledge of God, who revealed Himself in dialogue from time to time, but was hardly on "speed dial." There is famine. Formidable enemies will soon rise up. And he's got some, well, character issues (vs. 13).

We have to move past this chapter to see how God brings His promises to fruition. Through Abraham's seed (zera: Heb.) God provided in the future for both the nation of Israel and ultimately salvation for all believers through Jesus Christ. So God kept His promises... and allowed significant challenges along the way.

Reading the Bible this week and processing Dr. Allman's lectures refreshed my perspective on some things. I was comforted through this window on ancient history that there is a grand and perfect design and a process playing out all around us. We are a part of this process.

I was also challenged. How often, I wonder, do we let apparent obstacles stop us in our tracks? How often do we back down or opt out or play it safe in the face of challenges or risks that appear too great? When God is, perhaps, leading us into and through an impasse, testing and growing our faith in the process.

(I'm kind of wishing Abraham left behind some media files on faith...)

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