Day 5 – December 5
Ornament – Altar or Ram
Mysterious, yet transparent. Wild, yet the safest place. Fierce, yet patient. Our God.
We enter our story today with Abraham as he experiences God in all these ways.
Throughout Abraham’s story, he was invited to leave all he knew, to believe a promise would be fulfilled, even when no one else did and to sacrifice that very promise and to lead a people he would never know.
Wow! Let’s peek in.
He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Genesis 15:5
Count the stars. I wonder if Abraham had a moment like many of us might. Count the stars! Do you know how many are up there? Do you know how long that would take? For we can be an elusive people who want God to be precise. But His heart is never to elude us, but reveal to us mysteries long hidden, but never forgotten. God was inviting Abraham to see the immensity of who he was to become. But there was more. The Hebrew word for ‘count’ in this scripture is ‘cipher’ and it means “to relate, to be considered, to rehearse or declare what is within, to tell accurately, to scribe.”
You see, God wasn’t just telling Abraham how many would descend from him. He was telling him who they would be. Hemmed into a word, was a destiny. When Abraham (Abram at that point) was asked to look up it meant more than to turn his face in the direction of Heaven. It meant to read what was written there.
For hemmed into the stars is a story, our story. The stars sing, they speak, they utter. They tell the story of who God has always been and who He longs to be to us.
Another meaning of ‘count’ is “to utter what is heard.” Abraham was immersed in a moment of prophecy with Pappa, as he learned that his people would be storytellers, scribes, declarers, revealers and the very memory of Heaven.
We began our place in the story utterly hemmed in to this destiny, this purpose. We may be an athlete, teacher, student, writer, doctor, factory worker, or housewife, but our greatest destiny was prophesied on that day. For we are those descendants.
Let’s peek into the story again, not long after Abraham chose to offer what he long awaited, giving it to God, letting go, so Isaac would never be an idol he held tightly to.
Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. Genesis 22:15-17
For many, this might be a simple retelling of how vast Abraham’s descendants would be. But for me, it says so much more, though it’s something so big, it can’t be contained. But hidden within, sown into these words, is another promise.
It is the pledge of being held so near, there is hem in the hold. It means being encompassed in a garden much bigger than the original, yet to be filled with seed that would produce monumental fruit. Abraham and his descendants have a remembrance thread running through them. Those descendants include us! Markers of the Maker, we recount and recall. We find Him in the smallest grain of sand, in the expanse of space.
Abraham was found faithful. He is a founder of great faith. How did he constant covenant, meet memory and hold holy? He certainly touched the hem of Heaven via grain and galaxy. Up he looked, but he also took hold of a line that secured his. That strand led him from glory to glory, but the road was bordered with altar after altar.
Abraham’s altared life did not begin with the one upon which he laid Isaac. No, altars were covenant cathedrals for him, where he laid all down and lifted God up. Going from altar to altar was such a heroic act, Hebrews 11 recounts his journey.
When Pappa promised land to Abram’s seed (Genesis 12:7), he built an altar, a place to worship God for the very word He spoke. Hebrew remembers this stand and the way Abraham served from it.
But trusting Abraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went without knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8
After traversing toward eastern hills, Abram pitched his tent (Genesis 12:9). Accustomed to home and all its amenities, he willingly became a sojourner with only temporary dwelling to shelter and shade. This caused in him no wrestle. There, near peg and pole, he built another altar and called upon the name of the Lord and thanked Him for a place of rest.
By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents as did Isaac and Jacob who were to receive what was promised along with him (heirs of the promise). Hebrews 11:9
With friend and kin, he rested in the promise made, not trying to gain it through his own means, but trusting that God meant every word He said. This altar became a pillar of testimony to the One he trusted.
Nestled near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron (Genesis 13:18), Abram pitched tent and table once more. Set apart here, Abram began sifting what separated him from God and what drew him near. He began to lay aside what his own hands had gleaned and gathered, that he would have room for all he would inherit. At this offering place, he began to look towards all God had for him and away from all that filled his purse.
For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:10
Now, reaching the place God has told him about, Abraham built and altar and arranged the wood upon it, bound his son (Genesis 22:9) and offered his heir. Offered, opened and one with Pappa’s will, he gave back all he had been given.
But trusting, Abraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Issac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promise was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise from the dead and in a manner of speaking he did receive Issac back from death. Hebrews 11: 17-19
Upon communion’s counter Abraham laid his life, along with his son’s, noting from the bound and betrothed bend in his road, that Pappa would never ask of him what He Himself would not willingly do. Tethered to trust, he no longer needed to hold tight, for he was held in the heart of God. As are we.
Tether. I know, I know. I’m certain I’ll get to some of the more familiar names of Jesus. For now, I feel a bit like Hagar, discovering God in the wilds of her story. Though there were many names she knew, the one that spilled from her lips was that which He was to her in that moment of mess and majesty.
And so it is, as I’m delving afresh into chapters that invite me to new choices. I must call Him who He is, in the wild moment my heart is pierced, again.
Tether. When this name tumbles over my lips, I am reminded of how tightly He holds me and how free He lets me be. Whether at altar or adventure, He is the string to the kite of me. He lets out the line, so I might peer into paragraphs past and those yet to go to print.
It is trust that secures sail to string and testimony that adorns the string with colorful bows, each one a tale of His faithfulness. He has never let me go. I am held, aloft and aligned.