Tag Archives: Promises

Lessons of the Past

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
    and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
    and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
look to Abraham, your father,
    and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was only one man,
    and I blessed him and made him many.”
Isaiah 51:1-2 (NIV)

I’ve always been a lover of history. I love learning about the past, and I love it for a host of reasons. Among those reasons are the lessons found in one of life’s paradoxical mysteries. Things do change, yet we often use the adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” There are some things about human nature and society that remain amazingly static and simply get reinterpreted with each subsequent generation within the context of the times they find themselves. I find this a perpetually helpful reminder.

I can’t help but think of the current circumstances we find ourselves in here in the States. We feel acutely the tumultuous election in the United States and the deep division that’s being felt and expressed among our fellow citizens.

What has changed is that social media has allowed for unprecedented exchange and dissemination of immediate thoughts and feelings from POTUS to the lowliest citizen in real time. This has highlighted the stark differences of thought and opinion across hundreds of millions of people in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a decade or two ago. We are quick to stake our claim that we’re “more divided than ever” and we are this or that “of all time.” Along life’s journey I’ve discovered that we as humans like to lay claim to being wholly unique and exclusive in our human experiences.

It’s another thing I love about the past. It teaches us lessons of comparison that put our present circumstances in context. I’ve seen snarkiness, sarcasm, rage, and vitriol across the entire spectrum from extreme right to extreme left and back again. We are living in divisive times. Nevertheless, we haven’t killed a half-million of each other as we did in 1860-1865 (the featured photo of this post is that of Civil War dead). I haven’t seen in recent months the attack dogs and fire hoses of Bloody Sunday. I haven’t seen news stories of entire neighborhoods on fire. I pray we can learn from those lessons and keep ourselves from returning to such insanities.

In today’s chapter, God through the prophet Isaiah hearkens the Hebrew people to learn a lesson from their history. He tells them to look back and remember the story of Abraham and Sara. He tells them to recall the promises made and kept to Abraham. They were encouraged to trust the promises of the past. As God was faithful in His promises to Abraham, He would be faithful to His promises to Abraham’s children.

This morning I’m thinking about the past. I’m recalling my own relatively short life journey and the difficult times I’ve witnessed and experienced. I’m recalling some extraordinary good times I’ve experienced as well. The things we feel so acutely in this moment will pass. They will give way to other experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Time will march on.

One of the things my faith has given me is a broader eternal context in which to place my present circumstances. I do believe there is a reason for all of this. I believe it’s all connected and part of a larger narrative. The past has moved us to this point int he story. We will propel the story forward in our lifetime. Just as Isaiah encouraged the Babylonian refugees to take comfort in the promises of Abraham, I can hearken back to the eternal promises given through Jesus, the prophets, and apostles and take comfort in them.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 32

Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. He prayed to God and was given a reassuring sign. 2 Chronicles 32:24 (MSG)

I was awake early this morning. My brain was buzzing with anxious thoughts. Like Hezekiah and Jerusalem, I feel besieged. As I lay in the pre-dawn hours, pleading for sleep to return, my mind recounted troubling headlines and disappointing events.

This morning, I stand post on the wall of life and hear discouragement’s taunts. I shore up my heart with God’s promises. I remind my anxious heart of God’s track record of faithfulness.

Today, I’m praying for a reassuring sign.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and linlin

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 4

A dry and thirsty land. Elisha said to her, "This time next year you're going to be nursing an infant son."

"O my master, O Holy Man," she said, "don't play games with me, teasing me with such fantasies!" 
2 Kings 4:16 (MSG)

Promises feel profane to those whose life experience sit in opposition to that which is promised.

Mary was young and naive when Gabriel told her she would conceive and bear a son. We applaud her faith in joyfully embracing the message. Seriously, she had no concept of the pain of barrenness. That was not her journey. She would experience a different kind of barrenness and pain 30 years later.

The promise of a child is another thing altogether to a woman who has believed and hoped for years, and has nothing to show for it. Promise that woman she will conceive and you'll be met with Sarah's sarcastic and cynical laughter. You will feel defenses rise. You might even get the biting reply of the Shunnamite woman telling Elisha and God, in certain words, to keep their promises to themselves.

Promises are an encouragement to some. They are a burden for others.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Eric Rice