Origins – Naming God

This is the radio devotion for Thursday, July 9, 2020. Thanks to KCNI for airing these devotions from the Custer County Ministerial Association.

How do you introduce yourself?

Good morning. I’m Matt Fowler, the pastor of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. This summer, I’m preaching on through Genesis – which means “origins” – and there’s so much there I wanted to take a different angle this week. Genesis helps us know who God is, and who we are as God’s people.

Once we get past the primeval history – the history of time before time – in Genesis 1-11, we might think about the rest of Genesis as the history of the patriarchs of the people of Israel. In this, it’s the story of Abraham and Sarah and their offspring. In a way, this is an accurate way to read Genesis, but more than a story introducing the patriarchs, Genesis is the introduction of God and the origin story of God’s relationship with God’s people. Let’s take a look at three ways God is introduced in Genesis.

First, in Genesis 12, the Lord steps directly into the story of Abram and Sarai without any introduction saying to them, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (v. 1). They’ve likely lived their whole lives in Haran – modern-day Turkey – likely worshipping other gods. In this decisive moment, God reveals Godself as the God who calls Abram and Sarai into a new relationship. Further, God reveals Godself as God of blessing and God of mission, proclaiming, “I will bless you” to be a blessing for all the families of the earth (v. 3).

Second, while God promised Abram and Sarai offspring as plentiful as the stars in the sky, they were old and continued to be childless. Sarai forces her Egyptian slave Hagar into Abram’s bed to try to have a child. But she Hagar does get pregnant, Sarai treats Hagar so harshly that she runs away. Famished and afraid, the Lord’s messenger comes to Hagar and proclaims that God has seen her plight and will bless her and her child. In a bold act of faith unparalleled in the bible, Hagar, a foreigner, names God, calling God El-roi, the God who sees (Gen 16:3). Later, when Sarah casts Hagar and her son Ishmael out of their household for good, God comes again to Hagar, responding to her cries in the wilderness.

Third, to help their unbelief, God repeatedly reassures Abram and Sarai that God will bless them with offspring too numerous to count. In one pivotal scene, in Genesis 17, when Abram is 99, God reintroduces Godself to Abram saying, “I am El Shaddai” – God Almighty, the God who is able. God, in saying, “I am God Almighty,” is reaffirming that God is indeed able to fulfill God’s promises, as unlikely as they may seem.

These scenes introduce us to the origin stories of God, of who God truly is. God is a relational God, calling people to follow. God is God of blessing, even when blessing seems impossible. God is God Almighty, God who is able. And God is the God who sees and hears our cries. And in each of these scenes, God reveals godself before the people have done anything, often before they even believe. This is just who God is, always and everywhere, not just in Genesis, but for us as well.

Let’s pray. God Almighty, God Who Sees, reveal yourself to us today. Show us more of who you are, so that we can grow into who you call us to be. May it be so.

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