“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Ok, I did it- the cliché passage from Ecclesiastes… But you know what? It felt relevant today and for whatever reason, I feel like God is calling me to it.
I wasn’t even reading from Ecclesiastes this morning. I was reading from Genesis in my study of the Hebrew words used to describe/ refer to God. Today I learned El-olam, which I read comes from another word literally meaning “to be hidden” or “the vanishing point.” Olam was used to describe God’s infinite, everlasting, and eternal qualities (Genesis 21:33), specifically focusing on the concept of God transcending what we can see and measure with our finite senses.
This of course triggered a waterfall of thought and reading because I found it interesting that Abraham used El-olam to refer to God in Gen. 21 but wasn’t tested until the next chapter when God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. It pulled me in deeper- after a lifetime of wandering around, hesitating to trust and learning to let God be God, and walk by faith, Abraham finally acknowledged in Gen. 21:33 that God knew what was up, so to speak, by acknowledging that God far surpassed what Abraham could perceive on his own. At that moment, Abraham finally put his full trust and faith in the Lord. That makes the entirety of chapter 22 make more sense! Before when I had read it, Abraham comes off kind of callous, almost like he’s operating out of fear rather than faith. The whole time I always felt awful for poor Isaac because he had to have been confused and terrified the entire time. Before, I thought that the “moment of truth” was when Abraham lifted the knife to sacrifice his son and was stopped by the angel of the Lord… Now, I understand Abraham to have had a steadfast trust the whole time; he had already come to that point of absolute faith in God and he was confident that God would spare his one and only son. The test was just to “seal the deal” and prove with finality that Abraham had in fact put God first and foremost in his life.
As I pondered it further, I started to wonder how the experience shaped Isaac and his faith in God. Up on that mountain, he was shown ultimate faith and trust in God, but I don’t think he ever really “got” the message. Yes, he served the Lord, but I feel like he kind of missed the point that God made with his father, Abraham, and I’ll explain why.
1.) He hard-core played favorites with his sons, Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:28)
2.) He didn’t trust God to protect him and Rebekah so he lied to Abimelech (Gen. 26:7)
3.) He wasn’t a firm leader within his household; he was repeatedly deceived by both his wife and his son (Gen. 27:1-46; Gen. 28:1-9)
It was as if neither Jacob or Esau had a firm example of the devout and unwavering trust/faith of Abraham, because instead of spending their lives trying to serve and please God, they each sought to win Isaac’s favor, and in the end, it caused them all grief. Jacob was taught by his mother, Rebekah, that rather than accepting the place God had given him and the role he was to play in life, he had to deceive, lie, and scheme to get what he wanted, rather than be content with the blessings he was given, and trust God to provide for his needs and bless him with his wants. I read further in Genesis, through chapter 32, where Jacob wrestles with God and is left with a permanent limp as a perpetual mental note of his weakness on his own; a physical reminder that he needs God… And while he also served God, I don’t think Jacob ever fully understood either, because he too played favorites with his sons, Joseph and Benjamin because they were his children with Rachel, whom he loved most.
I processed the history within each of those generations of God’s chosen people… God had a plan that was accomplished in the end, regardless of the choices, decisions, or mistakes that those men made. There was season for everything and a time to every purpose, all of which ultimately achieved God’s desires for his people.
This is SO relevant to today’s society. I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with one of my sisters… We were discussing dating, marriage, and children, and she said something that made me aware of how lost people her age are because they rely on their own strength of will to get by… To paraphrase what she said, “You just have to do what feels right; there’s never going to be a right or perfect time. If you wait around forever, you’ll never do anything about it.” And I thought, wow- I thoroughly disagree, and understand the message God has been trying to drive home the past few weeks. There IS a right time. There IS perfect timing, and it’s God’s, not mine. I don’t want to go through life constantly struggling against my current situation, missing out on the joy of the present time I’ve been blessed with because I’m attempting to fill my life with the things I want or think I need in the heat of the moment. I don’t want to feel like Jacob, struggling for control, and fighting God’s will for me. I don’t want to limp by for the rest of my life, wishing I had just trusted God from the beginning to fulfill his promises.
I turned from Genesis to Ecclesiastes 3:15- “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.”The footnote after the word “account” clarified verse 15 to say, “God calls back the past.” I understand that the frustration of waiting I’m experiencing, or the unnerving feeling of being the only one to have ever felt like they’re in a limbo situation, holding out for what is yet to come, but stuck in waiting for the time being, is something ancient. It’s been felt and experienced by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… They’ve all dealt with that spiritual tug-of-war with God. Nothing I’m experiencing now is new, or different from what challenged people’s closeness to God back in ancient times. What IS different is that I have their experiences from which to draw wisdom. I’m never going to stop feeling those periods of insecurity, because I’m human. I just can’t let myself forget that God has a plan, and no matter what, it WILL be done. My role is tiny, and insignificant in the vast scheme of things, and to place my part above any others is foolish and ignorant, and contrary to everything I’ve read in scripture. I have a role to play, yes, but it isn’t for me to decide the order in which my scenes play out. That’s God’s job, and I’m resolving to daily offer up to him the control I continually try to seize. It will be a challenge to which I look forward.