Wineskins Archive

February 7, 2014

Back to the Point: The God Who Sees Us (May-Jun 2003)

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by Greg Taylor
May – June, 2003

In this edition of New Wineskins we have explored how the path to faith may lead through sandstorms of doubt. Born today in the same land, Abram would be an Iraqi. He likely covered the same tracks from Southern Iraq that Abram tanks of coalition troops traveled on the road to Baghdad. The walk of faith Abram made from present day Nasiriyah (near Ur) to present day Tikrit (near Haran) is today a track of doubt for many worldwide.

There were no chemical weapons to destroy, but Abram did fight four kings’ armies to save his nephew Lot. When Abram left Ur of the Chaldeans, did he have to convince his family to follow his sketchy plans? Was there doubt in his camp? I can hear Abram’s family asking, “Where is ‘a land I will show you,’ Abram?” Was there grumbling in Abram’s troop when Lot picked the choice land? When he risked his life to whip Kedorlaomer and his cronies and save Lot’s hide, was there any doubt in his mind that life might have been better back in Ur?

When we obey, love, and walk in this world, we open ourselves up to doubt. Our faith is woven into one another’s faith. So when we see another’s threadbare faith, we too may unravel. Global events such as war or presence of evil may undo our faith. A trusted minister who is caught in an affair puts us on the floor with doubt of another person. When our children lose heart, we might too. When a friend’s faith slips, we feel our feet dislodge from bedrock. Contributors in this issue have even hinted that a measure of doubt is necessary for genuine faith. But where does doubt come from?

Perhaps you’ve doubted another person, church, or government even more than you’ve doubted God. You loved or submitted then were abandoned. We often transfer doubt of people or our circumstances to doubt of God himself. This is not intellectual doubt but experiential doubt. Experiential doubt is the focus of our issue. We have chosen not to explore intellectual but experiential doubt—the kind of doubt that we often see in lament Psalms and the narratives of Scripture. Doubt can be expressed both vertically toward God and horizontally toward fellow humans or even inwardly toward ourselves.

Adam and Eve were tempted and doubted God’s command. Noah had his detractors. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets wrestled with fear and doubt as they tried to understand the God of Israel and how to honor him. Abraham is not known to us for his doubt but for his faith. Yet Abraham did doubt. Do you laugh at my suggestion that Abraham, the man of faith, doubted? Yes, you did laugh. Claim you’re not a fellow laugher and you take yourself out of God’s story. We all laugh…if just to keep from crying.

Twenty-five years had passed from the time God said to Abram, “Leave your country…and go to the land I will show you” and the time Isaac was born. In those years before Abram’s land was deeded and a baby bawled against his wrinkled face, he doubted. Sarai would have just been getting her AARP card when they left Haran and headed for Canaan on a promise that God would somehow create a patriarch and matriarch out of a childless couple and give a land to nomads.

They whittled away the first decade after the promise surviving famines, dividing lands, conquering kings, and meeting with Who’s Who people, such as Pharaoh of Egypt and Melchizedek. Then Sarai did what some desperate couples do in cultures with no adoption agencies and fertility drugs: she gave Abram her maidservant, an Egyptian named Hagar. They hotwired God’s plan. Yet God did not abandon them. Instead, God’s next step was to reveal himself to Hagar through an angel.

Would Hagar have had some horizontal doubt of Abram after being made pregnant by him and sent into exile after her mistress got jealous? Probably. But then a pregnant Egyptian servant girl huddled in the desert between Kadesh and Bered saw an angel of the Lord. The angel said she should name her son Ishmael, which means “God hears.” The angel added, “for the Lord has heard of your misery.”

In her passion and misery, she gave the Lord a new name: Beer Lahai Roi, which means, “You are the Living God who sees me.” For she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Faith rises out of our grief, just as it did for Abram and Sarah, and Hagar. In this issue we’ve seen the pain of those longing to be parents and the grief of those who lose children. And these sufferers have named their own sacred places, “God was here” or “God saw my grief” or “Yet will I trust him.” Yet we suffer in this world under the watch and sovereignty of a God who sees even an Egyptian servant in the desert who was exiled by his chosen man of faith. Even in our misery and doubt, God sees us. And through the sandstorms of doubt, somehow with dirty tears in our eyes, we glimpse the God who sees us.New Wineskins

Greg Taylor

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