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Nose-Rings and Bracelets

“And it came to pass as the camels completed drinking, the man took an nose-ring of gold, its weight being half-a-shekel, and two bracelets for her hands, their weight being ten gold shekels, and he said, ‘Whose daughter are you, please tell me. Also, in your father’s house is there a place for us to lodge?’”

(Genesis 24:22-23)

 

Having had his request of God confirmed, now Eliezer begins to follow through on his mission. He must confirm that this girl is genuinely from Abraham’s relatives and then he must begin negotiating the marriage price, something similar to a dowry. Essentially Eliezer must demonstrate to her father that Isaac will be able to provide a comfortable life for Rebekah. This begins with some gold trinkets as an initial indication of his wealth.

Some translations render the first item of jewelry simply as a “ring.” Hebrew is vague as to identifying pieces of jewelry and relies largely on context to communicate what kind of ring this is — or more accurately, on what part of the body this ring is to be worn. Scholars seem to be inclined to believe that culturally, this ring would have been worn in the nose (oh my, nope, nose rings are not a new fad, but at one point in time were very much in style!). Anyway, wherever this ring was to be worn — the ear, the nose, the finger… — a gift of a ring weighing about a quarter of an ounce was offered. The second gift was that of bracelets. Again, some render this as “armbands,” but the text states that the jewelry was for her hands, implying they be worn closer to the wrists. The weight of ten shekels (just over 4 ounces) is likely a combined weight of the two bracelets together. Still, this is a good deal of wealth, especially to be handed to a girl that he has just met.

Not only does he set forth to confirm her lineage, but in confidence that this is the woman to which God has led him, he begins making plans to lodge with her family. True, if she is the wrong girl, he would be staying in the wrong house. Yet in faith Eliezer moves forward with his plan. God’s design begins to unfold in this adventure that Eliezer has been on — notice too that he uses the plural (us) when he asks about lodging, reminding us again that he has an entourage with him (protection is essential) and that this group of people is also witnessing the unfolding of God’s plan.

How often it is that we get bogged down in worry when it comes to making decisions in life. The best philosophy is a different one than is typically taught in schools or in self-help seminars. The best philosophy is the Biblical model of taking God at his word that he will lead us. That means, when God opens doors, we should step through those doors for he will make a straight road for us to follow. But it also means that until God is ready to open doors, we should stay put with a clear focus on what God has designed for us where we are and in what we happen to be doing at the time. Our tendency, when doors are closed, is to try and beat them open with our fists or knock them in like the police do when raiding a building. Also, our tendency, when doors are opened wide, is to drag our feet, wondering whether this is really God’s design for us. When we live according to our human tendencies, the paths are rocky and crooked at best. How sad it is that we so often choose the latter rather than the former. Eliezer has chosen to trust and follow in faith recognizing that it is God’s hand that has opened the door and thus he will faithfully go through. May we all commit to doing the same.

Cherishing God’s Covenant (Genesis 17:9)

“And God said to Abraham, ‘Thus you shall cherish my covenant—you and your seed after you to the generations.”

(Genesis 17:9)

Do we really cherish the things that God has done for us? As I interact with Christians, sometimes I wonder. How often we will tell our neighbors about an award that one of our children might have received, but we will neglect to tell them about eternal life because it might be seen as socially awkward. It seems odd that we are often so silent about that which we profess to hold so dearly. Indeed, those things that we genuinely cherish are things that we seek to keep pure and preserve from outside influences. How often, though, we allow our theology to be polluted with non-Biblical but popular ideas. We often talk much about how God is love and how God forgives, but at the same time tend to downplay the fact that he is going to judge sin with eternal fire and how those who do not come to him in his Son, Jesus Christ, are guilty of the greatest offense imaginable before a holy God. How often truth becomes so watered down that its taste is barely recognizable.

Many of our English translations will render this word as “keep” and not “cherish.” The Hebrew verb used in this passage is rAmDv (shamar), which means, “to keep, to guard, to cherish, or to preserve.” It conveys the idea of protecting something that you treasure or hold dear. When this word is used to speak of commands, it usually reflects the idea of the people keeping them by doing them. Such is the same here. God is going to institute the sign of the covenant, that is circumcision. Yet, note that being circumcised is not how one fulfills the covenant—the covenant requires perfect obedience for it to be fulfilled—something that no mere human is able to perform.  Hence, we need a savior; hence God moved through the split animal pieces, not Abraham. Thus the tone here as this word is being used is not so much the actual fulfillment of the covenant, but whether or not Abraham is going to be faithful enough to the covenant to preserve the covenantal sign not only in his life but also in the lives of his children.

In the Christian church, we use the same language to refer to Baptism. As blood in its fullness has already been shed by Christ, the sign is a bloodless one and thus circumcision as a command has been done away with. Though many Christians still circumcise their sons, it is simply a matter of preference and family tradition at this point in history. Baptism is now the covenantal sign we place on the heads of our children. This sign is not necessary for salvation (as the thief on the cross could not have been baptized), but it is a matter of obedience and a reflection as to how seriously we cherish the covenant that God made with Abraham for us—which of course, was confirmed by Christ. If you cherish the things of God, your obedience to them should follow.

Loved ones, my prayer for you is that you take these words seriously. God has made a covenant with us as his people and he has always been fully and completely faithful to that covenant; are we being faithful to him? Do we really cherish the things that God is doing in our lives and do we raise our children to cherish those things as well? People say that children will hold dear the things that they see their parents holding dear. Do we cherish the covenant of God so dearly that our children and our grandchildren are also drawn to cherish those things as well?

Christian hearts, in love united,

Seek alone in Jesus rest;

Has He not your love excited?

Then let love inspire each breast;

Members on our Head depending

Lights reflecting Him, our Sun,

Brethren His commands attending,

We in Him, our Lord, are one.

-Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf

Stuff

Thus, where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.

(Matthew 6:21)

Stuff, stuff, and more stuff…  We fill our lives with stuff, we fill our homes with more stuff, and we fill the homes of others with even more stuff.  In and of itself, stuff is not bad—we need stuff to survive.  We need food to eat; we need water to drink; and we need shelter and protection from the elements.  All of that is stuff.  Certainly, some have more stuff than others, but it still is stuff. Frankly, I like stuff; I cannot deny it, but I would suggest that God also likes stuff. Roughly 6,000 years ago, God decided to create, well, stuff.  And not only did God create stuff, but he pronounced it, “good.”

The problem with stuff is not the stuff itself, but what we use it for. Often, our stuff just collects dust. We fall into a trap of wanting to have stuff and more stuff just for the sake of having the stuff. Even worse, we find ourselves embattled with others, each trying to gain and secure more and more stuff than the other.  Our lives begin to be consumed by the pursuit of stuff.  Where does it all end!?!

Ultimately it does come to an end. There will come a time when all of us will die and leave behind our stuff to others. Death is the great equalizer as someone once said; we all die and we cannot take any of our stuff with us. Where we go next is not dependent on the stuff we have or even on what we have done with our stuff; where we go is dependent upon the finished work of Jesus Christ and whether or not our name is in his great Book of Life.

So, if my salvation is neither dependent upon the stuff I have nor upon how I use it, what does it matter? Jesus has some words to this question, because while your salvation is not dependent upon anything but Christ’s finished work, Christ’s finished work in your life should affect what you do with your stuff in this life. We are taught two major lessons about our stuff in scripture. The first is that God blesses us with stuff primarily so that we can be a blessing to others—not only in how we share our stuff with them, but in how we share our stuff with them for the purpose of sharing the Gospel.

The second thing we learn from Scripture is found in this verse—our heart will dwell with what we treasure. Now, for the Hebrew culture, the heart not so much reflects the passions as it does the personality and mind—in other words, the thing that you think about all of the time will be what you treasure. For the Christian, our minds and thoughts ought to be on Christ and upon God’s word; sadly, we often are tempted to fall into the trap of pursuing more stuff and in that pursuit they become consumed. The Apostle John warns about this trap:

Do not love the world, nor that which is in the world.  If a certain person loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all of the things in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and arrogant living-is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away as well as its lusts.  Yet, the one who does the will of God will continue living eternally. (1 John 2:15-17)

So, the question is not so much about the stuff, but it is about the heart. Have you set your heart upon God and upon the things of God or is it on the stuff that those who live in this world set their hearts upon. If, then, your heart is set upon God, the stuff that you have and accumulate in this life becomes rather secondary. And when stuff is secondary, using it to bless others becomes second nature. All our stuff comes from God anyhow, let us use it as an evangelistic tool and not an end in and of itself.