Order, Words, & Voices 07.31.22

Order, Words, & Voices


Pre Worship Music

Opening Song- Great is Thy Faithfulness
Prayer                                    Rick
Reading            (Inperson Only)            Renee & Martha

Song- Leaning on the Everlasting Arms        

Message            A Haunting Oracle            Rick

Song-     Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (vs1 and chorus)

Community/Closing Peace                        Rick

Post Worship Music

Words and Voices

Great is Thy Faithfulness
ChorusGreat is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
Verse 1Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be
Verse 2Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above
Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love
Verse 3Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence
To cheer and to guide
Strength for today
And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
With ten thousand beside

Prayer [Slides Midway through]
Prayer comes from Genesis 49:25-26 and Jesus’ prayer-Matthew 6:9-13

God, you are our father, you will help us, you, the Almighty will bless us with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. God, the blessings of you, our Lord, are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains and the bounties of the everlasting hills; the blessings given from your hand are life sustaining and enduring throughout eternity.
[Slides Begin] [Join me as we say the Lord’s Prayer]
Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses, 
While we learn to forgive those who trespass against us.
And, God, lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the glory forever.

Music : Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
ChorusLeaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Verse 1What a fellowship what a joy divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
What a blessedness what a peace is mine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Verse 2O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way
Leaning on the everlasting arms
O how bright the path grows from day to day
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Verse 3What have I to dread what have I to fear
Leaning on the everlasting arms
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Reading [No Slides]
[Martha] Abraham breathed his last and died at one hundred and seventy-five years of age, old and full of years, and was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac. 

[Renee] Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren, and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The twins struggled together within Rebekah, and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” 

[Martha] So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other; the elder shall serve the younger.”  When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle, so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel, so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore the two boys.

[Renee] When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he was fond of game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that, for I am famished!” Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” So Jacob surrendered his birthright to Jacob. and Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew.

Genesis 25:21-28

Message – A Haunting Oracle [No Slides]
Genesis 25:21-28

We closed last week with the image of Rebekah falling off her camel as she had her first look at her fiance, Isaac. It was a fall, brought on by an extended moment of gawking activated by a joyful realization that her future husband, from a distance, appeared to be ‘perfect’. The journey to her new home had not come without certain doubts about this unknown man, he was double her age afterall – but now, from her landing place on the ground, she felt good about her decision.

We did not see Isaac’s reaction to Rebekah, the continued passage tells us that,  “Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent that had belonged to his mother, who had died years earlier.  Isaac took Rebekah and Rebekah took Isaac, and Rebecca became Isaac’s wife, and Isaac loved Rebekah. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Genesis 24:67)

Today we pick up the story twenty years later. We know little of what took place during those two decades except that 

  • Abraham died at the age of one hundred and seventy-five.  
  • Ishmael, who had twelve sons, made a return appearance to help Isaac with Abraham’s funeral. 
  • Isaac and Rebekah, the only link to God’s promise and the future have had no children, no descendants. Sure, Isaac’s parents waited almost 40 years for their promised descendant, and they were much older that Isaac who was not 60 and Rebekah was around forty years old. Even with this history, this was becoming more concerning.
  • Isaac says a prayer for Rebekah to get pregnant. We don’t know if this prayer was just the tip of the iceberg of prayers said by Isaac and Rebecah, or if this was a one time incident.

There are many additional questions as we pick up the story…

  • Were Isaac and Rebekah concerned about their lineage? Had they given up hope? Had the history of Abraham and Sarah calloused them to God’s promise?
  • Did they actually connect themselves with God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah? Had Abraham’s death jolt Isaac into a reality check moment?
  • Were they still in love or had their childless story evolved into bitterness and insecurity?
  • Did Rebekah still have an innate understanding and life practice of God base call to all humanity – love and respect?

The story of Isaac and Rebekah, is connected to all history by a thread extending from Noah, Abraham and Sarah, to the Prophets to Jesus and the apostles, to us and beyond. A thread connecting all of humanity as we attempt to reconcile our impatience with God’s perfect timing. Rebekah and Isaac held to this thread asking God, ‘Will you ever act on your promise?!’ For those who have taken part in our Bible Studies over the past couple of years, regardless of what book of the bible we have looked at, at one point or another we have asked the question ‘Why does it take so long?!’

And, the truth is, sometimes the waiting is difficult if not impossible. It is hard, and sometimes our impatience, followed by our taking our own actions, cause us to be blind to the work that God actually does do. Sometimes we are left with the loss of a loved one, or a neverending lifetime ahead of caring for a loved one. Sometimes we are left with nothing but the rest of our days dealing with the collateral damage of our bodies that fall apart on the way to an earthly death. Sometimes our own choices land us in an endlessly hopeless existence, and more often, the choices of others plant us deep into a life of frustration and pain in a seemingly eternal miserable cycle. Sometimes our call to God for action results in an answer from god that we do not want to hear. Sometimes we cry out to God for relief and change and we end up with news of worse things to come. Sometimes trusting God is the most insurmountable challenge of our lives.

Songwriting brothers and performers Adam, Jack, and Ryan Metzger wrote, 
Have I done my best here, or will I be here next year, or are these my best years yet?
Was looking forward to being important but I’m not important yet.
If you put this scene on a movie screen is it called a happy end?
If the world gets me where I’m supposed to be will I know I’ve made it then?
It’s so hard…
Can we skip to the good part?

I have mused over the past couple of weeks if Rebekah possibly would have had this song on her playlist. Would this have echoed her own state of mind as she looked at her life twenty years after the excitement of her wedding only to now be so confused and frustrated with life.  I wonder if this was her state when Isaac voiced his prayer which resulted in Rebekah becoming pregnant. 

After twenty years of Rebekah feeling like a failure, living with shame and frustration she was now pregnant. But, life did not get more rosy, this pregnancy did  not live up to her fantasies, life actually became a living hell. This child within Rebekah was a nightmare. In the midst of her agony she cried out to God, “If this is how it is going to be, just kill me God! Kill me now!” Possibly not the first time this God has heard this prayer, and it was definitely not the last time God heard these words. They were and always are, very sincere.

God’s answer did not soothe. His answer was an oracle, it was the prophetic words no mother wants to hear. 

“It is not one child, but two children, two sons. Two nations are in your womb, two peoples butting heads while still in your body. One will overpower the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23)

Not the answer she expected God to give. It was an answer that gave no relief to her current struggle, but instead extended her grief to the rest of her life. Not just nine months but forever! What do we do with this story?! Do we relegate it to the heretical theological dumping ground of  ‘this is all a part of the curse brought on by women since the beginning of time.’ Of course not!

Rebekah has just received a prison sentence. This is her life…forever. Her sons would fight like no sons have ever fought. Their fights would become wars, their hatred would spread beyond their own selfish ambitions. There is no way for this to become a happy ending story in the lifetime of Rebekah. 

So, she does what she thinks she can, and needs to do. She takes control, the best way she knows how. She protects the weaker Jacob against the more powerful brother Esau. She quietly instigates a deception against her own husband and Esau. Isaac goes in the opposite direction favoring Esau, further widening the split. They all allow their own pain and misery to destroy themselves and their family. Isaac ends up repeating the mistakes of his father and Rebekah goes into the manipulative mode of her mother-in-law.

God’s word does not sugar coating anything, ‘Jacob is not characterized in the most favorable of ways. Jacob is depicted as “grabbing” his brother’s firstborn right which will be continued in the characterization of Jacob as trickster that in subsequent narratives will mark Jacob’s way in the world. This portrayal makes the election of Jacob by God all the more remarkable. There is nothing in Jacob’s behavior that deserved God’s favor — actually God’s favor comes in spite of Jacob’s actions. This line of interpretation makes a strong case for God’s grace — a God who already is involved with people in their mother’s womb, within the very messiness and conflict of relationships. (Juliana Claassens, Professor of Old Testament, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa)

What do we do with the tragic story of Rebekah? She is our matriarch of living with struggle and heartache. She reflects to us our own agony of being human. But it actually is not hopeless, the words of the prophet Isaiah, as he spoke to a people who were also facing a lifetime of misery reminded them and us. 

“But as for you, you are mine, my chosen ones; for you are Abraham’s family, and he was my friend. I have called you back from the ends of the earth and said that you must serve but me alone, for I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Even now, I am holding you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God—say to you, Don’t be afraid; I am here to help you. Fear not, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer; I am the Holy One. The joy of the Lord shall fill you full; you shall glory in the God of Israel. (Isaiah 41:8-16)

The final country of our recent Europe trip was the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam. I have to admit when we first arrived I was not all that impressed but the longer we stayed the more I liked the city. The Netherlands are ranked high in their education system, and their politicians support the system. They rank much lower that the US in Violent crime rates including murder and rape. Their healthcare is comparable to the US using a combination of public and private except they require insurance for all. Healthcare is provided for all children to 18 years of age. The high temp while we were there was 65 degrees while back here in the US, it was daily topping over 10,000 degrees – and, there is a noticeable absence of bugs. They are deeply concerned about climate change, which makes sense being, themselves, already under water. They are serious about reducing their carbon footprint with an effective transit system, including bikes, millions of bikes, millions of bikes, on the roads everyday – on the other hand, you will see very few helmets and even fewer child safety precautions. Overall, though, the thing that caught my attention was how many dads I would see, after work, out with their children, playing in the parks, pushing a stroller, engaging everyday.

So, I was surprised when I was asked after we returned about the trip and as soon as I mentioned Amsterdam the individuals I was sharing with said, “Oh, Amsterdam makes me cry.” I was caught off guard until I asked what part of Amsterdam she had seen. She had been on a mission trip to Amsterdam, and as it  turned out had only seen the Red Light District – a famous multi block/alley ways are of legal prostitution and other nevarious activities, stuff that also takes place in all other countries but is hidden. 

While I left the country impressed by many aspects but deeply moved by the family environment – she had only seen the bad.

Rebekah cried out to God for a reason for her pregnancy agony – God answered honestly. What God said was that there would be no good, just that the bad would be really bad. Good stuff did happen,like a miraculous moment of forgiveness by the abused older brother Esau given to his manipulative brother. But, it does not seem that Rebekah was able to see any of that, she was looking out for Jacob, she was only on the watch for the bad. Rebekah went into her room turned her television and radios to the stations that would echo her misery expecting expectations and she heard nothing else, she saw nothing else, she lived with nothing else. 

To see God’s work we have to look for God’s work. To recognize hope, we have to look for moments of hope. To hear God’s plan we must still live out God’s directive to love. We have to look for good, we have to look for holy, we have to look for God, we have to trust God – even in the worst of times.

As we face, and we will face, the unthinkable, the mundane, the agonizing, the ordinary, the unknown and unimaginable, do we trust God to carry us through? Do we look for good, do we look for holy, do we look to God, the author and perfecter of our faith?

Let’s pray.

Music Leaning on the Everlasting Arms 
Vs. 1 and ChorusVerse 1What a fellowship what a joy divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
What a blessedness what a peace is mine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
sting arms

ChorusLeaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Community [Slides]

  • World’s Worst Inlaw, Next Sunday, Genesis 29:15-28
  • Miserable Endings, Wednesday Lunch and Bible Study, Noon this Wednesday at Fellowship Center, schedule at gfnorman.com, bring your own lunch
  • GF Business Gathering today, 10 minutes following morning worship
  • Parking free for all Fellowship center gatherings/meetings – all church stuff

Closing Peace [Slides]
May the Peace of the Lord go with you.
And also with you.
Go in the peace of the Lord.

Published by rickanthony1993

Husband of Andrea, Father of five, pastor of Grace Fellowship Norman OK.

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