Feb. 23: When the Biblical story becomes our story
Scroll down for complete Scripture.
Fifteen years ago, I did a curious thing. Instead of the typical children’s bedtime story, I began telling my 3-year-old daughter Monica the stories in Genesis, starting with today’s verses introducing the Abrahamic covenant. Night after night this went on, with me either reading from Hurlbut’s “Bedtime Bible Story Book” (a children’s classic) or paraphrasing the stories from memory.
To Monica’s credit, she tolerated this ritual well, often asking me to tell her the next story. For me, the experience still stands as one of my more formative experiences with the Bible. Liberated from chapter, verse and archaic language, Monica and I immersed ourselves in a truly great story – the improbable promise of God to give an old man and his barren wife descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and a land to live in. Woven into each tale is the dramatic tension of how God could possibly make good on his covenant against long odds, and through a succession of flawed characters, each in their own way improbable bearers of the promise.
In the telling of the Biblical story, it becomes our story – the story of God’s faithfulness in the face of our halting, imperfect attempts to believe and to follow. The unspoken implication of these stories is that we are the children of Abraham of our time, a living testimony to God’s faithfulness and ability to keep his promises from generation to generation.
God, give us the strength to stand fast on your promises. Through the stories of faith, remind us that you are always faithful and continue to call us to ever greater faithfulness, even when we fall short. Amen.
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (NRSV)
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,