Abimelech

Day 26

Don Miguel Ruiz once said, “Always do your best.” It’s the fourth of the titular agreements in his book. But he also says

“Your best will be better when you are healthy as opposed to sick, or sober as opposed to drunk.”

— The Four Agreements

And I’m not drunk, but my best is not very good today. I’ve been battling a terrible stomachache and I’m exhausted, so let’s get this thing done.


Genesis 26

This chapter opens with a famine in the land, and although Isaac is tempted to move his family, God tells him not to and explains all the promises and oaths that He gave to Abraham. Isaac then does as his father did, and pretends as though Rebekah is his sister, and not his wife. It is not until Abimelech sees them together that he chastises Isaac. Abimelech proclaims that no one shall harm Isaac or touch his wife, on penalty of death.

Isaac does very well for himself in a year’s time, and he was the envy of the Philistines. These jerks went around and filled in all of Abraham’s old wells, and Abimelech kicks Isaac out. So Isaac leaves, heads to the nearby Valley of Gerar, and digs up the old wells. After running into troubles with the locals twice over, he names the first two wells Esek, meaning quarrel, and Sitnah, meaning enmity.

No one fights him on the third one, and he names it Rehoboth, literally spaciousness, because

“Now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

— Isaac, Genesis 26:22

All goes well, and Abimelech and his commander, Phichol, and one of his friends, Ahuzzath, come to visit Isaac. They make a non-aggression pact with him, announce that he is blessed, and do not want him to hurt them. Isaac makes a feast and they go on their merry way.

Then things end with Esau taking two wives at age 40, which apparently is a huge pain for Isaac and Rebekah.

I’m not going to go to Matthew Henry today, but just share one of my own observations about this chapter. The Philistines are jealous of Isaac and his success; they kick him out and stop up his father’s wells and generally just harass him. And yet they only see the material things. They do not see his spiritual wealth, and if they do, they are put off by it. It seems to me that Isaac is a dedicated man; even though he inherits a great deal from his father, he also makes his own success. He prospers materially as well as spiritually, and it is my belief that the two go hand in hand, the latter preceding the former.

I am not saying that everyone who is materially wealthy is spiritually wealthy, nor am I saying that anyone who is spiritually wealthy will become materially wealthy. It just seems to me that as in this tale of Isaac, having a strong heart, having faith and a sense of purpose, these things can lead one to success, whatever that may be. For Isaac, his destiny is to inherit a land and to father a nation of people. This is what he has been told by God, and he has faith enough to get things done toward this end.

By faith, all things are possible.

I’m sick again, now. My stomach feels miserable. Contemplate these points, and rest well, everyone.

Peace be upon you.

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Day 21

Last night after I finished my writing, my partner read it and told me that she thought I was a good writer. It might not seem like much on the outside but after a long, tense, stressful week, this is how it felt:

I never noticed how husky her voice sounds; not how I’d imagine some young fawn, but whatever. That’s beside the point! I’m tired and distracted and still trying to recover from my sunburnt and exhausting day yesterday, so let’s get down to business.


Genesis 21

Psalm, Chronicles, Kings, Judges, Deuteronomy, Leviticus… here we are! Genesis.

I’m going to give the short short version today. (inhale)

So God visits Sarah and Sarah births a son to Abraham just as God said and Abraham names his son Issac and Isaac gets circumcised when he’s eight days old and Sarah thinks it’s still super weird and funny that she birthed a child but Sarah is all catty and jealous or something and so she tells Abraham that Hagar needs to get out and take her kid with her and Abraham doesn’t seem so thrilled with the idea but God tells him that it’s going to be okay so trust me on this one and so Hagar leaves with not a whole lot of water or food and she gets away and worries that her son is going to die and they talk about the kid like he’s a baby but in Genesis 17, Ishmael was already like thirteen years old but anyway God comes to her or sends an angel or something and tells her not to worry about it and showed her a well and the kid grows up and becomes an archer I guess. (gasp) So anyway then apparently he grows up and gets married and then “at that time” Abraham is talking to Abimelech and his general Phichol and they swear stuff to each other and are all well and good but then Abraham gets upset and rebukes Abimelech because of some well somewhere and I’m not sure what the heck is going on because Abraham acts like he dug this well apparently but Abimelech’s men seized it and I guess this is a big deal so then they made up and called the well Beersheba which was totally the same name as the place where Hagar went back in Genesis 20:14 so I’m really confused and anyway Abraham plants a tree there and it grows and he calls on God and prays or something and then he lives there in the land of the Philistines for many days. The end.

Oh, Matthew Hennnnnry…

So first of all I misread 21:9 and it turns out that the point is that Ishmael scoffed at Isaac. He was being disrespectful of someone who is really his half-sibling, and thus being disrespectful of his own father. Having no respect for the house, he is cast out. Matthew Henry says this:

“By abusing privileges, we forfeit them. Those who know not when they are well off, will be made to know the worth of mercies by the want of them.”¹

Regarding the whole thing with the well, I forgot how important a well of water is in a time before indoor plumbing and pumping stations. So it seems as though Abraham wanted his rights to the well back. I suppose when the Bible mentions the Wilderness of Beersheba in 21:14, perhaps that was a known area back then, but perhaps it got its name after Abraham and Abimelech made their oath. In this sense, it would be like saying “what is now California,” or some such thing.

While living in this land, Abraham plants a tree and prays. Henry has this to say:

“Abraham kept up public worship, in which his neighbours might join. Good men should do all they can to make others so.”¹

It’s poignant to me, and I think many Christians would agree with this statement. However, I think many people seek to accomplish this goal by pushing their beliefs and, intentionally or not, putting themselves on a pedestal. When someone acts like they’re better than everybody because of their faith, others are more likely to try and find fault. The truth is we all sin, in one way or another, or at least we have in the past. Nobody is “perfect,” but I feel like I must append this statement. We are who we are, and it cannot be expected that we should be different. All the inputs and experiences and things learned from life have put is here, now, in this place, wherever that may be. Where else could we be? Who else could we be?

But the power is within us to change our environment, to have new experiences, to take time to observe our own thoughts and thought patterns and to interrupt dysfunctional ones and promote or reinforce healthy ones. I can’t think of how to phrase all the things I want to say right now, but in a sense you must be the guardian of your soul, keeping watch for the anger and fear that seeps in from outside sources as well as that which bubbles up from within. I was going to use walls and barriers as a metaphor, but you’re not protecting a fragile heart or defending a delicate soul; you are strengthening the very thing you protect.

2012-11-27-twowolvesnewBy giving back, by being kind, by spreading love, your heart grows and your soul strengthens. Your love will run deeper and deeper until there is no place for anger or fear or hatred. Love, which implies God, will suffuse your entire being and you will realize the beauty of life. You will discover what I mean when I say that nobody’s perfect, but everybody is.

Have a blesséd day. Peace be upon you.


¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=21&com=mhc

P.S.: Oh my God I’ve been dying to include some Zen Pencils comics in my work but haven’t found an appropriate point until now. Gavin Aung Than, the artist, is one of my idols and heroes. I can draw a little bit, but not like him. I haven’t practiced and haven’t worked at it. Maybe someday, but for now I will spread my messages through my writing. Regardless, his work always seems to be in the back of my mind. The comic posted above can be found here.

 

Day 20

I really tried to get up early this morning to do this. Just shows how well “trying” gets anything done. It was bad enough today having woken up at around 6 am; I can’t imagine if I’d gotten up at 5. The problem is that now I’m just tired.

But, dammit, I’m going to see this thing through to the end. By the time I’m done with this project, and I know I will finish because I can visualize it perfectly, when I’m done, I will have made writing as much of a daily ritual as sleeping. I can’t wait. Part of me always wanted to become a writer, and I’ve got archives of old poems to prove it. (Their quality varies.) I’ve started two or three books and never finished and I’ve had ideas for several more that have never come close to fruition. But I have stories to tell, and I can’t seem to bring myself to practice much but this right now. Although by doing one thing every single day, I can build new habits. I can “unlearn what I have learned.”

I finally looked this up, because I thought of Yoda and the whole “trying” thing that I mentioned above. I was just going to use an image but I forgot the entirety of the scene, and I felt that it was important to include. This project, case in point, is not getting done because I am trying. It is getting done, chapter by chapter, day by day, because I am doing. If there is one thing I can recommend to anyone, and I know this has been said before, but do. Sitting and thinking and hoping and theorizing and whatever is all well and good, but you will not get anywhere unless you go out and get things done. It doesn’t matter if you are defeated the first time, or the second time, or the hundredth time. You are learning the whole way.

The important question is, “What are you willing to commit to?”

I myself am willing to commit to spending time every day, no matter how tired I may be, to reading the Bible and writing this blog. I am pushing myself harder than ever before and I am feeling the burn, I am feeling the resistance. Part of me wants to collapse and is ready to throw in the towel. But now I have no choice. I have no choice but to succeed in my career because I will not go back to waiting tables. I have no choice but to continue this project because of my conviction and spirituality. I would not live with myself otherwise. The time has come for me to dig my feet in and say that I will give no ground. No matter how hard life pushes me I will push back. I will press on.

It has been said that “faith can move mountains.” In one sense, by maintaining one’s climb, by pressing ahead, by taking one step after another no matter what, the mountain will have moved: the obstacle that lay ahead  now lies behind. In another sense, look at Christ’s words in Mark 11:23:

“Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.

I spoke earlier on Day 8 about the Language of the World… a communication that is beyond words and human speech. It is wind and water and element and action. It is a language of happenings. In our human tongues we need to say “I am” in a million different ways; we speak our thoughts and feelings just so that we can show others (and ourselves) that we are here, just so we can avoid being forgotten and drifting, lost, into obscurity. But in the Language of the World there are no words, and it is through our actions that we must convey our existence. Actions happen to us and we take action, effecting change in the world. I don’t even mean big changes; by doing something as simple as cooking an egg or drinking water we are moving atoms and reorganizing molecules. The world is different because of our action.

So go back to Christ’s words. One cannot stand next to a mountain and command it in English or Hebrew or any other tongue; mountains do not understand such things. But if you tell it to move in the Language of the World… now that is a language that a mountain can understand. There is no room for misinterpretation. Your action, in that sense, speaks for itself. Actions speak louder and deeper than words, and reverberate long after words have gone silent.

The second part of His statement in Mark 11:23 deals with belief. It is necessarily to have a clear picture, to develop one’s faith in a desired outcome, to see it in the mind’s eye. Once it is real to the mind and heart, once all doubt has been cast aside, then the path lies open and the dream will be made real.

Napoleon Hill knew this truth and gleaned it from so many successful men. Interested readers will direct their attention to Think and Grow Rich by Mr. Hill, for he gives instructions on how to develop faith, the likes of which I have never seen. Faith is a delicate in its early stages and must be tended to as a precious flower; it will not grow in infertile soil. It must always be tended to and strengthened, and once it is developed, nothing can shake it.

Time to delve into my chapter of the day. No matter how hard things get, readers, say it with me:

“I will press on.”


Genesis 20

So Abraham pulls the same stunt he pulled in Egypt back in Genesis 12 and tells Abimelech, king of Gerar, that his wife is his sister. I wanted to find some super stereotypical redneck picture for this but I really couldn’t bring myself to do it. Especially considering that after he is called out on it by Abimelech, Abraham says

“But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.”

Nice one, Abraham. Keepin’ it all in the family. So okay, half-sister, if this is to be taken literally? Whatever.

The whole point here seems to be that Abimelech, after taking Sarah, was visited in a dream by God and informed of the truth and of his unwitting sin. Abimelech is warned of the consequences of his sin because God knows that he was deceived and will not allow him to fall into sin. It is important for us to cultivate a righteous heart so that we can listen when God speaks.¹

Also important is Abraham’s deception. For some reason, once again, he fears for his life and distorts the truth about Sarah. He comments that he was worried that “the fear of God is not in this place,” but he himself slips back and fails to trust in God and the covenant established therewith. Steady that inconstant heart, Abraham. S**t ain’t over yet.

The thing I wonder about Genesis 20, just out of curiosity, is how long this whole episode takes. At the end of this debacle

“Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children;
for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.”

Yeesh. I just wonder if this actually took some time, maybe a few months or something before Sarah was restored to Abraham. Or maybe Abimelech and his people are just good at getting freaky as soon as the Lord’s curse was lifted. Either way, don’t mess with Abraham’s wife.

So ends Genesis 20. Looks like a long chapter ahead for tomorrow.

Have a blesséd evening, everybody. Peace, I’m out.


¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=20&com=mhc