Tuesday, July 17, 2007

spiritual descendants?

I wrote to one of the older teen's friends about the idea of spiritual descendants, because Genesis chapter 22 came to mind when I was thinking about her.

In Genesis 22, God meets Abraham on the mountain and provides a ram for a burnt offering (instead of Abraham's son Isaac). God then gives Abraham a promise about his descendants: that they will be like the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore, they'll possess the gate of their enemies, that the nations of the earth will bless themselves by Abraham's descendants. This is a blessing God would love to give you and me, I said, possibly in the sense of spiritual descendants.

Whether Abraham understood descendants in the genetic/biological/physical sense only or not, Paul tells us in Romans 4 that we who believe are Abraham's descendants -- it's not just those who follow the same religious rituals (verses 11, 13, 16-17). Paul talks about being father to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:15), because he imparted life -- eternal life -- to them through the gospel. So there are a couple of examples anyway where the idea of being a descendant is used in a spiritual sense -- a pioneer or a mentor or an evangelist is like a father or an ancestor.

(By the way, when Paul says he's a father, he's not taking away God's role in really giving them life. A human father contributes half the genetic material, but let's face it, the new life is nurtured 100% by the mother for the first 40 weeks or so. Similarly, it is God who is the real source of life, but the mentor, the friend, the evangelist has a significant role in bringing the life forth. Of course Paul understands this; didn't he say somewhere that one man planted, another watered, but God causes the growth?)

Now somewhere in Isaiah chapter 58, it says that you will raise up the foundations of many generations (in one translation anyway) -- which some have taken to mean generations of believers, i.e., spiritual generations. The passage paints a picture of healing, restoring, building. H'm, on closer examination it looks like that "generations" stuff might be more backward-looking than forward-looking.

But it's still a great passage. "You will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets..." -- sounds good to me! Any idiot can break things; healing and restoring are special.

And what does it take? Looking back in that Isaiah passage, we see the antecedent is "if you pour yourself out (extend yourself) to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted" -- that is when your light will shine in the darkness, and so on. A little before that, in chapter 57 I believe...yep, 57:15, he talks about the humble and contrite in spirit. These are characteristics he values in any servant of his. Because he does not delight in the strength of man or beast, but the Lord favors those who fear him, those who wait for his lovingkindness.

And on what did he base his astonishing promises to Abraham? "Because you have obeyed me" (Genesis 22:18). We don't have to be successful, spectacular, or famous in our lifetimes, but if we obey... that's what delights God.

And this just struck me: who is it that multiplied Abraham's descendants? Was it Abraham? Ah, no. Abraham didn't even see that many descendants I think. Jacob had 13 offspring and a bunch of grandchildren, but how many grandchildren did Abraham see? So about your spiritual descendants or mine -- the spiritual fruit of our lives -- whose job is it to multiply them? Who is it that will make our lives fruitful and useful?

If it has to be you and me, then we've got a lot of pressure on us, but no -- it's God who brings about the fruit, if we remain in him.

OK, time to stop writing and go to bed. I hope this helped.

No comments: