Stories matter. Stories weave our dreams and shape our lives. Stories reveal the essence of the human heart and even the heart of God. They reach our emotions and capture our imaginations. This includes stories of our own lives, family histories, and community sagas as well as great ongoing stories of peace or poverty. The Bible is God’s Story, our story. And it matters.
Next up we see God’s regret, promise, new start and blessings in action. Let’s dive into the second episode below and uncover history’s events through the lives, loves and losses of human beings just like us.
Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. All the peoples of the earth came from these three sons, spreading out and filling the land again. One of Shem’s descendants was called Abram. Abram was a wealthy man, but he had no children, because his wife Sarai was barren.
Then the LORD told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”
So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed him.
Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. He took his wife, Sarai, and all his wealth – his livestock and all the people who had joined his household at Haran— and finally arrived in Canaan.
The LORD said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction. I am going to give all this land to you and your offspring as a permanent possession. And I am going to give you so many descendants that, like dust, they cannot be counted! Take a walk in every direction and explore the new possessions I am giving you.”
Gen 13:5-11,13-17 abr
Afterward the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”
But Abram replied, “O Sovereign LORD, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? … You have given me no children, so one of my servants will have to be my heir.”
Then the LORD said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own to inherit everything I am giving you.” Then the LORD brought Abram outside beneath the night sky and told him, “Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that–too many to count!” And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD declared him righteous because of his faith.
But Sarai, Abram’s wife, had no children.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to make you into a mighty nation.”
At this, Abram fell face down in the dust. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of not just one nation, but a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram; now you will be known as Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will give you millions of descendants who will represent many nations. Kings will be among them!
“I will continue this everlasting covenant between us, generation after generation. It will continue between me and your offspring forever. And I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Yes, I will give all this land of Canaan to you and to your offspring forever. And I will be their God.
Then God added, “Regarding Sarai, your wife – her name will no longer be Sarai; from now on you will call her Sarah. And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings will be among her descendants!”
Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of one hundred?” he wondered. “Besides, Sarah is ninety; how could she have a baby?”
But God replied, “Sarah, your wife, will bear you a son. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my everlasting covenant with him and his descendants … [He] will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.”
Gen 17:15-17,19, 21
Then the LORD did exactly what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant, and she gave a son to Abraham in his old age.
Later on God tested Abraham’s faith and obedience. “Abraham!” God called.
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
“Take your son, your only son – yes, Isaac, whom you love so much – and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you.”
The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son Isaac. Then he chopped wood to build a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place where God had told him to go. On the third day of the journey, Abraham saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the young men. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the knife and the fire. As the two of them went on together,
Isaac said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son,” Abraham replied.
“We have the wood and the fire,” said the boy, “but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”
“God will provide a lamb, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both went on together.
When they arrived at the place where God had told Abraham to go, he built an altar and placed the wood on it. Then he tied Isaac up and laid him on the altar over the wood. And Abraham took the knife and lifted it up to kill his son as a sacrifice to the LORD. At that moment the angel of the LORD shouted to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” he answered. “I’m listening.”
“Lay down the knife,” the angel said. “Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me.”
Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering on the altar in place of his son.
Then the angel of the LORD called again to Abraham from heaven, “This is what the LORD says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your beloved son, I swear by my own self that I will bless you richly. I will multiply your descendants into countless millions, like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. They will conquer their enemies, and through your descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed – all because you have obeyed me.”
Besides Isaac, Abraham had a son called Ishmael, and other children. Abraham lived for 175 years, and when he died he left everything to his son, Isaac.
This is the history of the family of Isaac, the son of Abraham. When Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah. Isaac pleaded with the LORD to give Rebekah a child because she was childless. So the LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and his wife became pregnant with twins. But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the LORD about it. “Why is this happening to me?” she asked.
And the LORD told her, “The sons in your womb will become two rival nations. One nation will be stronger than the other; the descendants of your older son will serve the descendants of your younger son.”
And when the time came, the twins were born. The first was very red at birth. He was covered with so much hair that one would think he was wearing a piece of clothing. So they called him Esau. Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they called him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when the twins were born.
Gen 25: 19-26
Jacob married and had twelve sons – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph and Benjamin. God blessed Jacob and gave him the name Israel. The nation of Israel was named after him, and the twelve tribes of Israel were named after his sons.
Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day he gave Joseph a special gift – a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because of their father’s partiality. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.
One night Joseph had a dream and promptly reported the details to his brothers, causing them to hate him even more. “Listen to this dream,” he announced. “We were out in the field tying up bundles of grain. My bundle stood up, and then your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before it!”
“So you are going to be our king, are you?” his brothers taunted. And they hated him all the more for his dream and what he had said.
Soon after this, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem. When they had been gone for some time, Jacob said to Joseph, “Your brothers are over at Shechem with the flocks. I’m going to send you to them.”
“I’m ready to go,” Joseph replied.
Gen 37: 3-8, 12-13
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognised him in the distance and made plans to kill him. “Here comes that dreamer!” they exclaimed.
“Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into a deep pit. We can tell our father that a wild animal has eaten him. Then we’ll see what becomes of all his dreams!”
But Reuben came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. “Why should we shed his blood? Let’s just throw him alive into this pit here. That way he will die without our having to touch him.” Reuben was secretly planning to help Joseph escape, and then he would bring him back to his father.
So when Joseph arrived, they pulled off his beautiful robe and threw him into the pit. This pit was normally used to store water, but it was empty at the time. Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they noticed a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking spices, balm, and myrrh from Gilead to Egypt.
Judah said to the others, “What can we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let’s sell Joseph to those Ishmaelite traders. Let’s not be responsible for his death; after all, he is our brother!” And his brothers agreed. So when the traders came by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver, and the Ishmaelite traders took him along to Egypt.
God blessed Joseph in Egypt. God gave him the ability to interpret dreams, and he became an advisor to Pharaoh, the King. Although a slave, Pharaoh put him in charge of the whole country.
Later there was a famine across the whole region. God had revealed to Joseph that this famine would happen, and Joseph had stored grain to prepare for the bad harvests. Soon Joseph’s father and brothers had to move to Egypt, because they had no food.
Despite his brothers’ betrayal, he forgave them and welcomed them:
Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families.” And he spoke very kindly to them, reassuring them.
So Joseph and his brothers and their families continued to live in Egypt.
Joseph was 110 years old when he died.
“Soon I will die,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God will surely come for you, to lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he vowed to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
The whole of history belongs to God, but it is worked out through individuals. Chosen men and women, then families and communities, set apart as agents of promise.
Promised land, promised people, God’s masterplan in such fragile hands.
But here we are, six billion individual life stories, each one unique, all overlapping and combining into the one great story of God and God’s creation…
… a story which continues in episode three.
Unless marked, all Bible text taken from New Living Translation,©2007