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God and the "Disqualified"

The best story to come out of the London Olympics may be Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee. He was born in 1986 with no fibula in either leg, and so his parents made the decision to amputate. If ever someone was disqualified from running, it was him. Oscar Pistorius But not so fast. Prosthetics allowed him to compete in rugby and swimming, and after an injury he turned to running. He is called the blade runner because of the Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon artificial limbs he runs on. These very blades disqualified him from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. After an appeal he was allowed to enter qualifications but failed by 70 hundredths of a second to qualify. Four years later he made the team for London and reached the semi-final heat of the 400 meters. It is inspirational now, but had you been directing the South African Olympic track team you simply would not have gone to that boy with those defects decades ago and planned to make an Olympic runner out of him. Too many disqualifications.

So it is with Abraham. His is a story of promise and a story of promises. But the twisting drama in the story of Abram and the first steps of God building Israel, is how Abram appears disqualified for the promises before the story even begins. If we’re most concerned about the most promising people, Abram is not where a well-laid plan would begin. But if we we’re looking for a man whose disqualifications allow for no explanation but God, then Abram is exactly where we would begin. Read Genesis 12:1-5:

The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your Father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;

I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram left, as the Lord had told him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

It’s hard to imagine greater promises than the ones that come to Abram. There are seven of them, and they practically mark the time that the people of God took their first step. God promises to build a nation through a man and to make the man’s name great. This in a time when people did not speak casually of nations or names—to achieve either was beyond the scope of Abram. And consider the blessing of God. Abram will be blessed and will bless others. More, God will do something unique. God is for those who bless him and against those who curse him. And God will do more than just bless Abram—through Abram the peoples of the earth will find blessing. This, of course, is reaching ahead to the Israel we’ll find leaving Egypt under Moses’ hand and entering Canaan under Joshua’s hand. This is the Israel that will bring us the Galilean rabbi, Jesus son of Mary, and as we know now, Jesus Son of God. Abram was blessed, but the world has been far more blessed through Abram by the coming of Jesus Christ as the world’s Savior.

All of this came through Abram, a man of many qualities but obvious disqualifications. Consider these. First, a man is called to leave country, people, and Father’s household as a first step. As Genesis 11 and the Tower reveals, when you left your people and land in the ancient world, you left all that was secure. You also left behind tribal religion. To call Abram away is to expose Abram to all the dangers a homeland and family and local deities guarded against. This isolation would have been a major disqualification for promises of nations and blessing. Second, Abram and Sarai are childless. This is the source of no small drama and faith in Genesis. The obvious problem to building a nation through Abram is that there is no one to build through Abram. Paul will later write in Romans that Abram was “as good as dead” at the time of his calling (Rom. 4:19). Abram owns much, but he does not have an heir. Last, God plans to bring this work through a man already seventy-five years old. Like Abram, we might believe than nation-building and world-blessing would begin in the young, like a King David who has years to give. Abram does not have years to give. God did not start with the young, and this is not lost on Abram or Sarai. They will both raise the objection of their ages to God as the story unfolds in later chapters, and neither will hold out much faith that they will live to see any of these promises come to pass.

If you are familiar with the Bible, you know well that these are exactly the conditions under which God works the loudest. Consider the list: Moses disqualified as a murderer and unwilling servant; David disqualified for age; Mary disqualified for pregnancy out of wedlock; Jesus disqualified as a Nazarene; Levi disqualified as a tax collector; disciples disqualified as uneducated; woman at the well disqualified as a foreigner and sinner; Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha, disqualified because of gender; Paul disqualified as a persecutor of Christians; and Gentiles disqualified for not being Jewish. The great turns of faith rest in these names and their stories. If God simply chooses the best and brightest and most prepared, the better part of our Bible and our children’s names do not exist. The great and obvious work of God seems to find root in the disqualified.

And in these disqualifications we find the ancient and modern gem of our faith: God sees our disqualifications in a different light. We see endings, but He sees beginnings.

-Moses’ doubt. When God reveals to Moses that he is to lead the people out of Egypt, Moses begins a series of objections in Exodus 3: Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? Suppose they say, What is his name? What shall I tell them? What if they don’t believe me? I am slow of speech and tongue. Please send someone else to do it. What appears like humility is really doubt and fear. You might think a man like would be disqualified for tepid faith. Just the opposite. God creates in Abraham a deep trust and dependence.

-Woman at the well. She seems disqualified for being female, ethnicity, and sinner’s past; she is a Samaritan and a divorcee five times and now abides with a man not her husband. And yet you see a scene in John 4 seen nowhere else: when this woman returns to her hometown to tell them about Jesus, they all follow her and come to believe. It is true that sin creates a reputation, but when God lands in that reputation He creates a witness that gets people’s attention.

-Paul and his thorn in the flesh. We know little of the problem, but we know that Paul pleads for it to be removed. He might be thinking that pain, illness, and personal struggle disqualify him from the life he hopes to lead before God. God’s response, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness, changes the game. God creates a new light on weakness.

-You. Much of what you consider disqualifications for faith, for service, for hope, God might consider fertile soil for grace. If you are looking for a place to seek God, learn from God, start over with God, maybe the place to go is the place you’ve always felt to be your disqualification.

For Abram, he lacked a place, an heir, and time. God still kept the promise. God can keep the same promise of blessing and provision for you.




    Bulletin Insert

    Genesis: The Ancient Modern Story II August 12, 2012

    R Blade runner: Not your typical success story

    The story of Abraham: promise and promises.

    If we’re most concerned about the most promising people, this is not where we begin. But if we we’re looking for a man whose disqualifications allow for no explanation but God, then Abram is exactly where we begin.

    Genesis 12:1-5:

    The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your Father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

    I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;

    I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

    I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

    and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

    So Abram left, as the Lord had told him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

    God will do more than just bless Abram—through Abram the peoples of the earth will find blessing. This, of course, reaches ahead to the Israel we’ll find leaving Egypt under Moses’ hand and entering Canaan under Joshua’s hand. This is the Israel that will bring us the Galilean rabbi, Jesus son of Mary, and as we know now, Jesus Son of God. Abram was blessed, but the world has been far more blessed through Abram by the coming of Jesus Christ as the world’s Savior.

    All of this came through Abram, a man of many qualities but obvious .

    First, is there hope without a home?

    Second, is there a people without a child?

    Third, is there hope in a wrinkle?

    If you are familiar with the Bible, you know well that these are exactly the conditions under which God works the loudest.

    The disqualified…

    If God simply chooses the best and brightest and most prepared, the better part of our Bible and our children’s names do not exist. The great and obvious work of God seems to find root in the disqualified.

    And in these disqualifications we find the ancient and modern gem of our faith: God sees our disqualifications in a different light. We see endings, but He sees beginnings.

    Moses and a tepid faith… (Exodus 3-4)

    A woman, a well, and a sinner’s past… (John 4)

    Paul, pain, and the Yes in the No… (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

    You…

    Where do I begin?




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