What God Is Deadly Serious About

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

What do the seemingly draconian Old Testament laws about sexual unfaithfulness in marriage tell us about God and his desire for the entire human family? The Bible clearly teaches us that God is deadly serious about the sanctity of marriage and the welfare of the family that derives from the marriage; namely the innocent children who are forever wounded by the unfaithfulness of their parents. And while we no longer serve up the death penalty to adulterers—and by Jesus’ re-definition of adultery in the heart, aren’t we all glad that capital punishment is off the table—God cares just as much today about the health of the human family as he did in the Old Testament. Your family’s health matters to God—make sure it matters that much to you, too!

Marriage Covenant

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 5:20-21, 28

If a wife has gone astray by being unfaithful to her husband and has defiled herself through sexual immorality [and her husband suspects unfaithfulness]—at this point the priest must put the wife under oath by saying, “May the people know that the LORD’S curse is upon you when he makes you infertile…” But if she has not defiled herself and is pure, then she will be unharmed and will still be able to have children.

It would be very easy as a modern reader with a western worldview to discard this chapter out of hand and think that God and/or the Judeo-Christian tradition had it out for women. On its face, Numbers 5 seems unfair to women, allowing them to be accused of sexual unfaithfulness by a jealous husband with impunity. The suspicious husband could accuse his wife of unfaithfulness and even if she was proven to be innocent, she would still suffer the embarrassment of public humiliation while he suffered no consequence for bringing a false accusation. As one who had been falsely accused said upon being proven innocent, “Now where can I go to get my reputation back”? Being found guilty, even being accused, would mean enduring a horrible ordeal for a wife. For sure, to our modern sensibilities, the ritual law covering a husband’s jealous suspicion of an unfaithful wife seems unfair, misogynistic and draconian.

But, as is the case in so many of these chapters that concern civil and religious law, there is more to the story here. A proper reading and understanding of this chapter requires us to consider one, the culture at the time—God was forming a people without a system of civil law into a nation that was to now live under the rule of his law; two, the context of the law—the law’s greater purpose was to teach the people about the holiness of God and his demands for their holiness as his set apart people; three, a wider reading of Scripture to see how the laws against bearing false witness, the law for dealing with an adulterous husband, and the laws of restitution gave context to this specific law; and four, the new covenant law of love that Jesus imposed over the sexually promiscuous. Likewise, we need to take into account what Jesus also had to say about how husbands treated their wives, the repugnance of divorce, and even how self-righteous men were actually committing adultery simply (and likely continuously) by lusting after women in their hearts.

So, understanding this chapter, which is what I would classify as what theologians term “a hard saying of the Bible”, requires some extra work on our part. Namely, it is important here that we follow the proper hermeneutical principle of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Having said that, what does this seemingly draconian law tell us about God and his desire for not only his people, but the entire human family? I have a strong belief that this clearly teaches us that God is deadly serious about the sanctity of marriage and the welfare of the family that derives from the marriage; namely the innocent children who are forever wounded by the unfaithfulness of either the husband or the wife. The human race is made up of families, and each family is God’s little society. All these little societies provide stability and health to the larger family of mankind. And in a deeper, truer, more mysterious way, the family, living in loving faithfulness, reflects the image of the Godhead, who lives in utter unity within the mutuality of the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In Genesis 1 and 2, when God created mankind and instituted marriage, over and over he spoke of his image being reflected in the best possible light among the rest of creation by the loving, faithful relationship of Adam and Eve. More than you and I can possibly realize, God is concerned about your marriage and mine. So serious was he that violation of the marriage covenant through unfaithfulness brought capital punishment. And even though he provided other means for unhappy couples to dissolve their covenant, it grieved his heart. And while we no longer serve up the death penalty to adulterers—and by Jesus’ re-definition of adultery in the heart, aren’t we all glad that capital punishment is off the table—God cares just as much today about the health of the human family as he did in Numbers 5. Our cultural tolerance of boundary-less sex, easy divorce and the acceptance of the single-parent home milieu means that we will have a lot to answer for on the Day of Judgement.

At this point I could list endless research on the destructiveness to men and women, and especially the life-long harm to the most vulnerable, our children, that results from our cavalier attitude toward the sanctity of marriage, but I think you get the picture. What is God deadly serious about? Your marriage, that’s what!

Whether you are married, not yet married, or will be single for life, as a Christ-follower, let us take up the cause of the sanctity of marriage. Let us, first of all, live out God’s ideal in our own homes. Then, let us fearlessly take a stand against the demon-inspired attack in its various forms on God’s ideal of covenantal marriage. Perhaps if enough of us would model the right thing and call out the wrong thing, we could save a few of these “little societies” from destruction.

Going Deeper With God: Pray daily for your marriage, and for the marriages of your loved ones, and for the marriages in your church. Pray a hedge of protection around them. It may not seem like you are doing much, but your prayer will be heard by the God who answers prayer.

The God Who Is—And Will

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Sometimes the journey takes us to “the wall.” The proverbial wall is a place our faith rarely anticipates. Yet the Biblical record reminds us that what we can’t see past the wall is that the God who is—and will—is already there, already at work, already securing victory in the assignment he has called us to. Walls are no big deal to the God who is—and will!

The Wall

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 6:6-8

Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”

After 40 years of desert training, God finally gets Moses back on track with a divine assignment—and what an assignment it is! He is to go, as God’s voice, and demand that Pharaoh, the world’s most powerful leader, let the tribes of Israel leave Egypt. And not just for a field trip, mind you—to permanently leave in order to establish their own nation elsewhere. That would mean over two million unpaid laborers leaving Egypt’s workforce. From a human perspective, this is a non-starter; God is sending Moses into a mission that will be dead on arrival.

Further complicating the matter, Moses was painfully insecure about himself—from his past failures, his personal limitations, and from his brutal sense of reality—he knew the ways of Egypt, having been a one-time prince there, and he knew that this was definitely a very bad plan. Not only that, Moses’ previous attempt to submit a leave request for Israel had resulted in Pharaoh increasing their workload while decreasing the raw material need for their project. This was a case where God’s will had made things worse before it would get better. The Israelites were in the “things are worse” phase and couldn’t see the “things will get better” phase, and they were none too happy with Moses and not too thrilled with God. At this point, they were not listening to either.

So at this point in the Exodus story, Moses has hit the wall. Doing the will of God did not bring immediate success. On the contrary, it brought more difficulty—more failure and more insecurity, a real reality-check for the reluctant deliverer. When you listen to his arguments with God over the past three chapters, you get the sense that Moses felt abandoned by God, hung out to dry and given an impossible task. Now he was the cause of even greater hardship for his people, which left him with a deep sense that he had missed the will of God by miles.

Side Bar: Obviously, you have felt that way in your walk with God, too. I’ve certainly been there. That is just part and parcel of what it means to walk in faith and obedience with God. How often does the journey take us through a place that is darker than what our definition of faith allows before we come into the sunshine of divine favor. And it is in those dark places that we doubt ourselves, our calling and our God.

But in response to Moses’ pleadings, we see two eternal truths about God that should help us in those times when doing the will of God seems to bring us up against the wall:

First, we see that five times, God says, “I am…” That is who God is: the Great I Am. He is the Eternal One, the self-existent Sovereign of the Universe. And he makes no mistakes—ever! When he calls you, he will care for you in the journey. Where he guides you, he will provide for you. Don’t focus on the I can’t—lean into the Great I Am. He knows what he is doing, even if you don’t.

Second, we see that times God says “I will…” God is not the God of the past, he is the Ruler of the present. He is not a laid-back noun; God is in action. He is always at work—even right at this very moment. You can’t see it, but you can trust it: God is working to perfect his will through what he has tasked you to do. In the Christian walk, in reality, there is no such thing as “a wall”; there is only an “I Will!”

The Lord is with you and ahead of you. When God calls you to a step of faith, in reality, he has already gone before you and is waiting where the step of faith will take you. Yes, he goes before you (“the Lord is going before you, and the God of Israel is your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12), he prepares the way for you (“I am going to send an angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” Exodus 23:20), he gives you safety and protection on the journey (“For the Lord your God walks throughout your camp to protect you and deliver your enemies to you.” Deuteronomy 23:14), he guarantees your success (“if you are careful to obey each of his laws, then you will be successful in everything you do.” Joshua 1:7) and he ensures the journey of faith will leave you with an outstanding testimony (“If you do, he will make you greater than any other nation, allowing you to receive praise, honor, and renown.” Deuteronomy 26:19). So wherever God calls, step out, even if it means stepping through the wall.

Your God is the God who is—and will!

Going Deeper With God: Read James 1:2-8 and you will see how your difficulties and God’s will go together. You will discover how God employs temporal hardship to build eternal character in your life. Now, if your faith has led you into a difficult spot, quit focusing on “the wall” and start looking for the “I Will” from the God who is “I Am”.

Forgive

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Without forgiveness, there is no future of divine blessing in our lives. Without forgiveness, there is only an endless recycling of resentment, retaliation and alienation. Without forgiveness, our deepest wounds will never heal. “He who cannot forgive another breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself.” (George Herbert)

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Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 50:19-21

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

The willingness to forgive is the most obvious of Joseph’s virtues, but given what his brothers had done, it is the hardest to relate to on a personal and practical level. How do you forgive those who were supposed to cherish, encourage and protect you, when instead, they betrayed you in the worst possible way? How do you forgive your abuser?

The key to Joseph’s forgiveness was an uncommon understanding and a radical commitment to the sovereignty of God—that God was in control of his life. He believed it was God who had allowed his brothers to sell him into slavery some two decades ago as a part of God’s plan to save their lives. He understood that it was God who had allowed the injustice of Potiphar’s wife as God’s way of arranging a meeting with the cupbearer in prison. He realized why God allowed the cupbearer to then forget about him, leaving him to rot in prison another two years: God’s timing wasn’t right.

Now keep in mind that God didn’t plan that for Joseph, but he planned for it. Big difference!

Joseph chose to interpret all the events of his life—even these incredibly hurtful events—as God’s perfect will for his life. He knew that if God allowed injustice or injury or inaction, it was for a greater purpose. Therefore, letting go of bitterness and offering forgiveness was the only wise thing to do.

That’s tough when we’ve been wounded. The last thing we want to do is forgive. But the only healing salve for the deep emotional wounds that get inflicted from time to time in our lives is forgiveness!

Now some people think forgiving is forgetting. It’s not! It’s precisely because of it, we can’t forget that forgiveness is needed. Some people think forgiveness minimizes the hurt. It doesn’t! It’s precisely because of the intensity of our pain that forgiveness is needed. Some think that forgiveness means forfeiting justice. Not true! It’s precisely, and perhaps most importantly, that because we ourselves deserve God’s judgment, we need to extend forgiveness.

That’s why Paul taught, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) That’s why Jesus said, “You can’t get forgiveness from God without also forgiving others.” (Matthew 6:15, MSG) Gorge Herbert said, “He who cannot forgive another breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself.”

You see, without forgiveness, there is no future of divine blessing in our lives. Without forgiveness, there is only an endless recycling of resentment, retaliation and alienation. Without forgiveness, our deepest wounds will never heal.

Harry Emerson Fosdick was right when he wrote that not forgiving someone is like “burning down your house to get rid of a rat.”

Maybe you have someone in your life that has hurt you deeply, and you have sworn to never forgive. Joseph would advise you to rethink that position. He would encourage you that with God’s help, you can take a step toward forgiveness, and with that step, take a giant leap toward a destiny of divine blessing.

Forgive! It allows what others meant for evil to be repurposed by God for your good.

Going Deeper With God: If only the truly forgiven are truly forgiving, then only the truly forgiving are truly forgiven. Who do you need to forgive today? Better get on it!

The Power of the Blessing

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God has engineered every child with the seeds of success—and it’s a parent’s duty to see and prophetically speak that potential into the child’s spirit. Much of what a child needs to reach their potential is an adult who understands God’s thumbprint for them and helps the child understand what that means by picturing it for them. As Larry Crabb said, “A vision we give to others of who and what they could become has power when it echoes what the spirit has already spoken into their souls.”

Noah Blessing

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 48:14-16

Jacob put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, though he was the younger boy, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, though he was the firstborn. Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked—the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac. And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.”

If you looked up the words “dysfunction” in the Bible, you would find a footnote that said, “See Jacob’s family.” They brought disharmony, envy, rivalry, promiscuity, violence, estrangement to new heights —and that was on a good day. But over time, through some tough lessons, by making some strategic changes, and with God’s help, they turned a corner toward becoming a family of destiny.

Ultimately, God shaped this family into a nation—Israel, his covenant people. From Israel came the law of Moses, Levitical priesthood, the Davidic kingdom, the Messiah—Jesus Christ, and the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which American society was built. And we see how they began to turn that corner here in Genesis 48.

Jacob, now an old man does something for his children and grandchildren that every child wants and needs: He gave them “the blessing.” What do I mean by “the blessing”? Throughout the Bible, patriarchs of families and fathers would pass on “the blessing” to their children. It was a formal cultural occasion and a significant spiritual marker in the life of that child that shaped the rest of their life, even if it was an adult child when they received it. The father’s blessing would affirm the child’s value and give prophetic direction to their future…an impact that would last for generations.

We don’t do that much in our culture, but in truth, every human longs for both approval and prophetic guidance from their parents. Missing out on it leads us on a lifetime search for it in other ways…most of which are non-productive at best, and are destructive at worst.

How? How do you give them the blessing? Here’s what Jacob did—3 things:

First, you bless them by giving them meaningful touch. That is not easy in a culture that’s uneasy with physical contact…even in caring homes where parents, especially dads, tend to quit touching their kids once they reach grade-school. But notice what Jacob did in Genesis 48:10: “So Joseph brought his sons close to Jacob, and his father kissed them and embraced them.” Then, between Genesis 48:10-14, eight times there’s a reference to Jacob physically touching these two boys.

Throughout the Bible, “the blessing” was always accompanied by a meaningful touch. Jesus did this when he took the children in his arms and blessed them. God created us with 5 million touch receptors, and over 1/3 are in our hands. Jesus understood that touch communicates something powerful—that we’re loved and valued. It provides comfort, security, and acceptance.

Second, speak words of encouragement to them. Genesis 48:15 says, “Jacob blessed them and said, ‘May God bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.”

There’s tremendous power in our words! Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” He may not have realized it, but he was echoing what the Bible teaches: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21) Words of affirmation are powerful communicators of love, acceptance and appreciation. Without them, kids often grow up looking for it in ways that are unhealthy. But not only does withholding encouraging words hurt, we do even more damage by the negative words we use. Rather than shaping positively, critical, angry, negative words shatter emotionally.

Someone has said that it takes 40 positive affirmations to overcome just one word spoken in a hurtful way. We need to be keenly aware of how powerful our words are, and how powerful the absence of words of blessing can be. The people in your life, especially your children, need to regularly hear words that bless them.

Paul said it this way in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen.” You can set the stage for a household of destiny by learning to bless with meaningful touch and encouraging words.

Third, envision a special future for them. You give “the blessing” by helping them to picture an amazing future. We see Jacob doing this in Genesis 48:16,19 “They will be called by the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac…may they greatly increase upon the earth…Manasseh also will develop into a people, and he also will be great. But Ephraim will be even greater and his descendants will enrich nations.” (MSG)

God has engineered every child with the seeds of success—and it’s a parent’s duty to see and prophetically speak that potential into the child’s spirit. Much of what a child needs to reach their potential is an adult who understands God’s thumbprint for them and helps the child understand what that means by picturing it for them. Larry Crabb said, “A vision we give to others of who and what they could become has power when it echoes what the spirit has already spoken into their souls.”

One of the ways you can envision a special future is through word pictures that express high value. Notice Genesis 48:20: “Israel,” he is referring to a time in the future when the nation of Israel, “will use your names to give blessings: May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” (MSG)

A word-picture expresses a child’s God-given worth in a creative & unforgettable way—and often becomes the prophetic momentum for them to become that vision. Do that for your child. Find a common object, one that they value, and use it to paint a word picture of their special value and their special future. Discern God’s thumbprint for their life and prophetically speak that into their spirit and you’ll provide them with a self-renewing blessing. Touch and encourage your kids, and paint for them a picture a special future—that’s the blessings

And what a gift that is!

Going Deeper With God: Touch, encourage and envision a future of promise for someone today—especially a child. You will be doing God’s work.

Killing The Not-So-Silent Killer In Your Home

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If you’ve never received “the robe” of love and acceptance from the most important people in your life, learn how to receive that love and acceptance from God! Do you realize how completely and perfectly your Heavenly Father prizes you? 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.” Yes, that is what you are—thank God!

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Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 37:3-4

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Jealousy! That’s the not-so-silent killer in families of all types: the nuclear family, extended families, small groups, churches and the family of mankind. It always has been, it always will be—unless you call a stop to it in yours.

Genesis 37 contains the ongoing account of Jacob’s family, which through his twelve sons, has been singled out as the progenitor of the people of God. But this family is rife with all kinds of dysfunction—especially favoritism that has now passed through four generations—and sibling rivalry which ensues, that spawns animosity and hatred to levels that almost destroy this family.

What we find in Jacob’s unique love for Joseph is an imperfect love with which all parents—including your parents, and you as a parent—inadequately love their kids. I am sure there was more to the story than just one thing, but it was the special robe that Jacob gave Joseph that seems to unleash this torrent of jealousy in the eleven siblings against Joseph.

The robe is the expression of a father’s love and affection for his child. It represents what every child inherently wants, and desperately needs: the sense that they are special and valued. But when another child learns that they’ll never wear the robe, never have their parent’s favor, a hope in that child dies and typically, an unhealthy way of responding to the world is created. And favoritism—deliberate or not—unleashes currents of jealousy and envy that will erode the peace and harmony God intends for that little community.

What’s going on in Jacob’s family isn’t unusual. It happens in most every home to some degree. Joseph is favored because he’s the son of Jacob’s old age—and his favoritism takes a very concrete form when Jacob gave Joseph a robe—the NIV calls it, “a richly ornamented robe”, while other translations say “a robe with long sleeves”, but the King James famously translates it, “a coat of many colors.”

Every time Joseph wears the robe it reminds his brothers that their father will never love them like he loves Joseph. The text tells us three times of their growing “hatred” for Joseph. Interestingly they hate Joseph, but who’s at fault? Jacob! He’s the one that has played favorites, but they take it out on Joseph. Verse 11 says, “So his brothers were jealous of him.”

What’s interesting about this story is that Jacob knew the pain of not being dad’s favorite, of what it was like not to wear the robe, yet he recycles this dysfunction, favoring Joseph but leaving his other sons to know the pain he once knew. And out of jealousy they sell Joseph into slavery and deceive their dad into thinking that Joseph is dead. Yet their deception gets them no closer to what they desperately want: they haven’t won their father’s love; they’ve only lost their brother.

What about you, and your family? Perhaps sibling rivalry, envy and jealousy have broken the shalom of God in your little community. If you are a parent, I would challenge you to think about how you can give twelve robes instead of just one—to love each person uniquely as a special creation of God.

And if you are one who has never worn the robe in your family, and likely never will, I would suggest to you that in the place of envy, you learn to receive love and acceptance in new ways. Cultivate relationships in your faith community. Imperfect as they are, your Christian brothers and sisters will do their best to give the kind of affirmation and love you need.

But mostly, learn how to receive love from God! Do you realize how completely and perfectly your Heavenly Father loves and prizes you? One of my favorite verses, 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.”

Personalize and memorize this truth: “See what love the Father has given me, that I should be called a child of God, and that is what I am.”

Do that—because that is what you are!

Going Deeper With God: Memorize 1 John 3:1 today—and quote it as often as you need to get it into your head.

Memory: The Bittersweet Gift

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

It has been said that when you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. So live your life that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. You have the opportunity to live today in such a way that how you want to be remembered at the time of your passing will be true then.

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Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 23:1-2

When Sarah was 127 years old, she died at Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron) in the land of Canaan. There Abraham mourned and wept for her.

An insightful person has profoundly written of death, “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. So live your life that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” Sarah was 127 years old when she passed from this life to the next, and even after decades of journeying through this life as her husband, Abraham was still stung by grief. He must have expected that day, he must have, in some way, prepared his mind for her passing, yet he was still heart broken with grief from the loss of his soul-mate. She had lived in such a way that her world mourned her passing.

The great preacher Ray Stedman said of Abraham’s weeping over Sarah,

The well of grief is fed by the springs of memory. All the dear, sweet days came crowding in upon [him] here. I think he saw in his mind’s eye that beautiful girl who captured his heart long, long ago. I think it was in the spring, for even back in those days in the spring a young man’s fancy turned to what the young women had been thinking about all winter! ‘Boy meets girl’ was the same wonderful story back in the days of Abraham some 4,000 years ago as it is today. As the old man wept over the body of Sarah, he must have remembered all those wonderful times. Memories passed through his fingers like pearls on a string. He remembered the sunlight glittering in her hair when he first saw her, the radiance of her face on her wedding day, the softness of her touch, and the grace of her caress. Each remembrance brought a heartache in the darkness of his grief at this hour. He recalled the high adventure of their life together, and especially that supreme, compelling call from God that sent them out as a couple together into an unknown land. He remembered how Sarah went along with him, sharing hardships, accepting the unsettled life without a murmur or complaint. How his heart must have been wrung with anguish as he remembered anew the perfidy he showed in Egypt when he exposed her to danger and dishonor with his lie before Pharaoh, and again years later before Abimelech! All the bittersweet memories came in upon him as he recalled their long, weary years without a child and how they wept together. He remembered how Sarah cried bitter tears over that barren womb and how in her desperation to give him a son, she offered her handmaid, even at the cost of her pride, and Ishmael was born. All of this must have filled Abraham’s heart and mind as he wept here before Sarah. He remembered, too, how at long last, glory shone in her face when her own son, Isaac, lay in her arms. His memory ran back through the years and retraced the love that drew them together, through the bad times and through the good, till they were one in body, mind, and heart. Now death has torn her from his arms though it could never tear her from his heart.

It would be easy to pass over these two verses and quickly move on in the story of God to the patriarchs to come—Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. But pause for a moment in this story and let this touch your soul. Abraham loved Sarah. In an age where marriage is treated as but one of many options, where divorce is no big deal, where committed, faithful, exclusive love is barely recognizable—perhaps even mocked or maybe viewed as an ideal from an era gone by—that this man had loved his wife this much touches the readers’ heartstrings.

And now that Sarah was gone, the bittersweet gift of memories held him at the place of death until it was time for him to square his shoulders and move forward into the story that God had written for Abraham’s seed. Yet thank God for those memories. And thank God for the pain of loss, for it meant that this couple had found and built with one another a love so great that death could not rip it from the heart of the surviving spouse. When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure—and nothing could take Abraham’s treasure from him.

Yet Genesis 23:3 tells us that Abraham moved on from there: “Then Abraham rose from before his dead.” Life must go on. The living must live. And while in that moment it would be difficult for Abraham to take the next step, to look beyond the sorrow of today to see to possibility of tomorrow, the treasure of Sarah’s memory made the journey sweeter.

Why did the Scripture include this detail of Abraham’s grief? Why would the Lord have us pause at the graveside of this man to peer into his grief, albeit for a moment? The answer is simple: this is life. And one day, we, too, will stand in grief at the place of the dead. We, too, will feel as if the road has ended, that we have not strength to move on. But we, too, will rise up, for life will call us forward. But we must remember that while the dearly departed loved one is gone, they are not forgotten. Love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. (Rossiter Worthington Raymond)

Memories—God’s photo album for the human heart. The opportunity you have today is to make those memories with the ones you love. Today is the day you have to so live your life that when you die, the world will cry but you will rejoice. Make sure to take some good photographs today!

Going Deep With God: Before you do anything else today, pause to think about how you want others to remember you at your passing. Now so live today as to assure that will be true then.