Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Livin' la vida Isaac

Let's just begin by saying this: I'm no Ricky Martin. If you know me at all, you'll know that I am not a person who leads a crazy life - I may be a slight bit on the crazy side of things, but I am about as safe and predictable as they come. So, having established that I'm not livin' la vida loca, I will say that I have become rather enamored of the life of Isaac recently. In fact, if their is any one person whose lifestyle I am trying to emulate (besides Jesus, of course) it would be Isaac. I'm trying to live la vida Isaac (insert catch latin rhythm here).

Okay, what am I talking about? You know Isaac, right. Not the one on The Love Boat, serving up the drinks to the guest star of the week. The one that was offered up as a sacrifice by his father, Abraham, and was spared by God. Yeah, that one. What part of his life, you might ask, are you emulating? Probably the two things you know offhand are his near sacrifice and his lying about Rebekah being his sister to the king, Abimelech (just like dear old dad). Okay, you probably also remember that as an old man with failing eyesight he bestowed the blessing on Jacob, his younger son, instead of Esau when Jacob and Rebekah conspired to trick him. What part of that am I emulating?

Well, there's more to his story than just these Sunday School highlights. Take, for example, his time among Abimelech and the Philistines (read along in
Genesis 26). Jehovah had set out from the start to bless Isaac. Despite the lie about Rebekah (which was told to the king, of all people), no harm came to him when the truth came out. You see, Jehovah wanted Isaac protected - even when Isaac was not fully trusting Him. And so the king who could have easily had him killed for such actions instead was more worried about how he or his people might have sinned in ignorance of the truth. And the blessings continued, we see, as Isaac was blessed with a crop one hundred times larger than what he had sown (Genesis 26:12). Sure, you say, who wouldn't want to live this life? Cue the Joel Osteen quotes and lets all have the health and wealth gospel, eh?

But, you know what, the prosperity gospel only works here if you conveniently ignore what happens next. You see, Abimelech clearly recognizes the hand of Jehovah on Isaac's life, and he's afraid because of it. The Philistine's were jealous, stopping up Isaac's wells to try and hurt him, and Abimelech "asks" him to move along. What did God's blessing bring Isaac? For a time, it made him homeless as a nation turned against him. But what does Isaac do? That's the real question. Read closely and you'll find that Isaac - wait for it - moves.

Okay, you say, who can fight a king? Of course Isaac moves. But read on. Jehovah continues to bless him in his new home just down the road. And the Philistine's continue to quarrel with him. In each conflict Isaac pulls out his sword, rallies his servants, and drives off the people treating him unfairly.

Well, maybe not.

Just like with the king, when he finds contention with the locals Isaac simple moves along. He doesn't grumble about being treated unfairly. Never once does he lose his patience or trust in Jehovah. And Isaac is maybe one of the most peace-loving people recorded in the bible - not once do we see him with sword in hand preparing to smite his enemy. In fact, because Isaac was so continuously blessed, Abimelech eventually comes back to him, more or less with hat in hand, and begs Isaac to make a treaty with him. Catch that? A king, a nation, is making a peace treaty with one man, who happens to have never threatened them with violence.

When I say I trying to live like Isaac, I'm not saying that I want material blessings or international recognition. I'm saying that I want to learn to live in such a way that everyone, and I mean everyone, knows without a doubt that I have been touched by God, filled with His Spirit. Full of peace (
Matthew 5:9). Content with whatever happens (Philippians 2:14). Not suing for redress of unfair treatment (Luke 6:27-30). Filled with Godly wisdom. (Hey, Isaac was wise enough to know both of his children well. Well enough that, when blessing Esau, he knew just what blessing Esau needed. And yes, Isaac blessed both Jacob and Esau.) A simple man, living life in such an obvious way that people knew Jehovah and responded to Him - just because they knew Isaac.

You know what: since I have been consciously trying to live like this, I've actually noticed some results, in my life and in the people around me. During the 40 Day Fast, I made a point of trying to be private in my fast. To do this, I had to notify one person, who would have been buying me a birthday cake at work, that I would be forgoing that cake. I did this for simplicity and privacy in the fast, so I would not be acting the holier-than-thou fool standing over my own cake and not eating. She was so moved by what I was doing, and who I was doing this for, that she got a bunch of people at work to chip in and make a donation to
Blood:Water Mission. Just me, trying to work out my own salvation, and in the process moving others to compassion and to do something beyond themselves. To make it clear and not imply any type of arrogance here: Nothing. I. Did. Caused. This. I was just working on me and my God. It was God who did that, and touched these people; and He did it through my being obedient to Him.

Blood:Water Mission in actionI've made it a point to have a photo that Blood:Water sent our family nearby most of the time. Something I can look at and remember who and what I've been praying for with them. I kept one photo in my bible; it needs replacing now. Some good friends at church had a learning moment with their two boys, recently, teaching them that the water they had wasted was not to be taken for granted. The boys had turned on a sprinkler and left it on all day, so to teach them a lesson they got to move a bucket of water one cup at a time - working hard for water, like people who do not have it so easily at hand do. I saw her blog post and talked to her the next day after church. I showed them the picture in my bible, thinking it would help drive home the lesson to the boys. It did: the boys (5 and 7) decided to start giving monthly to Blood:Water Mission. Wow. Simply by reminding myself of God's mission to touch peoples lives, others have been moved to touch lives, too. Again, nothing I did, there: Jeff and Erin taught the lesson, not me, and did a good job of it. At best, I helped provide and outlet for the lesson to be applied. Not much, but a lot.

That's what I'm trying to do, living like Isaac. Not much, but a lot. Simple things. Focus on my need to be with God, my need for His grace and righteousness. Let God show through me, be known through me. Let God work, let me be His tool. Get myself out of the limelight, let God's hand on my life be seen. That, I'm convinced, is when things really happen. We say it all the time, that we can do nothing but God can accomplish all things. Well, now I'm just trying to live it. Livin' la vida Isaac.

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