Daily devotion

Negotiate with Tact

Like trees planted by streams of water are those who delight to meditate daily in the law of the Lord.

Genesis 21:22-34

Some months ago I visited a fair-trade cooperative in the desert in Northern Cape, South Africa, where some women farmers were growing redbush tea near a spring. Their dream was to qualify for a government scheme that would lend them ten breeding ewes. After five years they would have to repay ten young ewes and what was left would be theirs.

When we last met Abimelek he said ‘My land is before you; live wherever you like’, but Abraham entourage is large and resources are scarce in the desert. Rumours of tension must have reached him, and Abimelek sees the value of having a formal agreement. He recognizes how God is blessing Abraham, but he is also fearful of the shifting balance of power between them. Churches that are growing in size and influence often evoke this mixture of respect and anxiety in local community leaders. In this case, goodwill prevails and a treaty is made  that includes Abraham making an appropriate contribution.

This seems a good moment to raise an issue about water. Abraham’s men have dug a well, but the locals consider the land is theirs. With their leader in a sympathetic mood, Abraham picks out seven valuable breeding lambs that will potentially go on paying interest well into the future. He has clearly bought his well and he celebrates by planting a large shady tree that will outlive him. The name Beersheba is pun: it could mean ‘well of seven’ or ‘well of oath’. It is double reminder of the transaction. After years of trusting God’s promise of a nation and a land, Abraham now has one son and one oasis, each a foretaste of what was promised. No wonder Abraham dedicates his tree to the Eternal God

‘With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day’. God may surprises us with his speed, or by making us wait.

 

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