Episode 15 – Jacobs dream

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 27 verse 42 to chapter 29 verse 1

Jacob’s dream

The sounds of the night drew ever closer as Jacob hurried to light his campfire. This was a good place to set up camp, but now that he was alone – he heard things he’d never noticed before, the noises of the night, menacing and frightening.

As the fire crackled and spat into life, Jacob threw on some more wood and then lay down, pulling his cloak tightly around his shoulders. And resting his head on a long flat stone, he thought back once again over the last few days, days that had turned his life upside down and led him to this lonely place.

‘It’s all Esau’s fault,’ thought Jacob. ‘He just doesn’t know when he’s beaten! And anyway, how was I supposed to know he’d be such a sore loser? (P) I knew he’d be upset, but I never thought he’d want to murder me! All I did was.. Well, what I had to do – to get what was mine. (P) Ok – I did use tricks and deception to get that blessing – but they shouldn’t have tried to take it away from me … I bought it off Esau fair and square – for a bowl of stew!’

Jacob rolled onto his side and stared into the fire. Had it been worth it? Had it really been worth it? All that trickery and deceit? What had it got him? Oh yes, he’d well and truly beaten his brother Esau by tricking him out of his birthright and stealing the blessing … but what good was that now? Because as soon as Rebekah, his mother, had found out about Esau’s murderous thoughts – she’d worked out a plan to get Jacob out of harm’s way.

‘Oh Isaac,’ Rebekah had said to the boys’ father. ‘Esau’s married a couple of these local girls who don’t know God and won’t worship Him. I just can’t cope with the idea of Jacob doing the same. Please, can’t we send him away to my family, to find a nice young wife from amongst my relatives?’

And for now her scheming had worked. His father Isaac had called him into his tent and told him to go to his uncle Laban’s house and marry one of Laban’s daughters. And so he’d left with his father’s blessing and very little else! (PAUSE)

Jacob sighed deeply, the flames of the fire flickering in his breath.

And now he was here, miles away from the home he loved, with almost nothing except the clothes on his back to call his own.  It was the first time he’d ever felt truly alone.

Sleep came easily as Jacob was tired from all his travelling, but this was to be no ordinary night.

As Jacob slept he started to dream – a dream sent from God. (P) And as he dreamt he saw a stairway with one end on the earth and the other in heaven. And as he looked at the stairway, he saw the angels of God moving up and down between heaven and earth.

As his eyes followed the stairway to the top, there – above it all – was the Lord God Himself. And He was speaking to Jacob.

‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and of your father Isaac. This ground that you lie on belongs to you, for I will give it to you and your descendents. And your descendents will be so numerous, that just like the dust of the earth, no one will be able to count them. And they will fill this land from east to west and north to south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendents. (P) And what’s more, I Myself will be with you. I will protect you wherever you go. And the day will come when I will bring you safely back to this land, for I will be constantly with you until I have given you all that I have promised.’

And then Jacob woke up, terrified at what he’d seen! (WHISPERED) ‘This place! The Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it! It’s an awesome place – nothing less than the very house of God – the gateway to heaven!’

Very early the next morning Jacob got up and took hold of the stone he’d used for a pillow the night before. He took the stone and stood it upright, as a memorial stone to remember what had happened to him. Then, with the stone standing on its end, he poured some olive oil over it. And he named the place – Bethel, which means ‘House of God’.

And then he said, ‘If God is going to be with me and protect me on this journey, and give me enough food and clothing … and, if He’ll bring me safely back to my father, then I will make the Lord – my God and this memorial pillar will be a place for worshipping Him, and I’ll give Him ten percent of everything He gives me.

He’d felt alone, but God had shown him he wasn’t. So, with the promises of God ringing in his ears, and a new certainty that God was with him, Jacob hurried on with his journey to the lands of the east.

Episode 11 – Abraham – Too much to ask?

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 22 verses 1 – 14

Abraham – Too much to ask?

By the time Abraham’s son Isaac was born, Abraham was an old man. For many years he and his wife Sarah had waited for God to keep His promise that they would have a son. And, when it seemed that there was no hope they’d ever have a child, God visited Abraham and Sarah and promised they’d have a son within a year. And sure enough, a year later their precious son Isaac was born.

Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac with all their hearts. Through Him God had said He would keep His other promises to Abraham … to make a great nation from his children’s children, to bless all nations through his descendants … to one day deal with the problem of evil and death once and for all. Isaac was the child through whom these promises would be passed on. And he was very precious to his parents. (P)

Over the years Abraham had learnt to trust God whatever happened. When, in the past, he’d not listened to God and tried to deal with problems in his own way, it’d led to disaster. But when he obeyed God, even when it was hard, things worked out. So, Abraham learned from his mistakes and became the friend of God.

Isaac was growing up to be a fine young man and God saw how much Abraham loved him. So God decided He would test Abraham to see if he loved God most of all. He was going to ask Abraham to do something very difficult. If Abraham obeyed God and did it, He’d know Abraham loved Him more than anything else. But if Abraham didn’t do it, He’d know Abraham didn’t really love Him as much as he should.

‘Abraham.’ God’s voice was like that of an old friend.

‘Yes, my Lord.’

‘Abraham, take your son Isaac whom you love so very much…’

Abraham listened even more closely now because God was talking about Isaac. ‘Take your son Isaac to the land of Moriah.’ (Moriah was a 3 day walk away.) ‘When you get there I will show you a mountain. On that mountain I want you to sacrifice Isaac. Kill him and burn his body as an offering to me.’

Kill his son? Kill Isaac through whom God had said He was going to keep His promises? How could this be? Surely Abraham wasn’t going to do such a horrible and evil thing. How could he live with himself? … What about God’s promises? … It simply didn’t make any sense.

As these thoughts rushed through Abraham’s mind, he also knew he couldn’t stop trusting God. Through all these years God had faithfully looked after him and his family. It hadn’t always been easy, but God had never let them down. Abraham knew that even though he couldn’t understand why God wanted this, he could still trust Him. God had spoken, and Abraham was going to obey.

Early the next morning, Abraham woke Isaac. ‘God’s asked us to go and offer Him a sacrifice. We have to travel to Moriah so we need an early start. Come on, let’s get some wood.’

The journey to Moriah was long and slow. Abraham traveled much of the way in silence, and with each step he offered a silent prayer to God, trying to understand why God should ask him to kill his son. God had said that the promises He’d given Abraham would be passed on through Isaac. But how could they if Isaac was dead? Round and round the questions went in Abraham’s head. He pleaded with God to let him understand, but God remained silent as Abraham took each painful step of the journey, with the knife dangling at his side as a constant reminder of what was to come.

After three days traveling they saw the mountain Isaac was to be sacrificed on. The small party stopped and Abraham took some wood and put it on Isaac’s back.

‘Stay here,’ Abraham said to the servants who’d come with them. ‘The boy and I are going to go on to worship God. When we’ve finished we’ll come back to you here.’

What was Abraham saying? How could he and the boy ‘come back’ when he was going to sacrifice Isaac? What was going through the old man’s mind?

After they’d walked a while in silence, Isaac asked, ‘Dad, I’ve brought the wood, and you’ve got the knife, but where’s the lamb we’re going to sacrifice?’

The old man, who’s heart felt so heavy that he struggled to take each step, looked across at his dear son. (P) ‘Don’t worry Isaac,’ he said, ‘God’ll provide.’

When they got to the mountain they looked for a suitable place to make the sacrifice. ‘How about here Dad?’ Isaac had found the right place.

‘It looks fine to me son.’ Abraham was so proud of his son. ‘Let’s get some stones to make the altar.’ The two of them collected some rocks to make a small platform, and then Abraham took the wood and placed it on top.

What they talked about as they made the altar and arranged the wood, I don’t know. Isaac was no longer a small child, but a young man. And Abraham was no longer a young man, being well over 100.

Isaac must have seen it coming. He could’ve struggled or run away, but he didn’t. When Abraham came to tie him up and lay him on the altar, Isaac trusted his father. Somehow he must have known, like his father, that God was in control. (P)

In the quietness of that mountain clearing a young lad lay, bound and unable to move, on a small pile of sticks, heaped on top of a small pile of rocks. Beside him, his father, tears rolling down his face, started to kneel as he forced himself on, to obey God’s terrible request. Both looked at each other – a father asked to do the impossible – a son, trusting beyond what he could see or even understand. Both knew it was what God had asked and both trusted that God would still keep His promises even though it looked as if it was about to become impossible.

The old man ran his trembling hand lovingly through his son’s hair. He felt so old now, so old and alone. – But even though he felt alone, he knew that God was with him.

Abraham’s hand reached for the knife, his eyes never leaving those of his son. With an almost superhuman effort he pulled the knife up. Then, tearing his eyes away from Isaac’s, his body tensed – and with a deep breath…

‘Abraham – Abraham.’ God’s voice boomed out across the mountain breaking Abraham’s concentration.

‘Yes … I’m – I’m listening.’

‘Stop, don’t hurt the boy! Put the knife down because now I know that above anything else you love me. When I asked, you didn’t hold back what was more precious to you than anything else … your only son Isaac.’

Quickly the old man untied the ropes and hugged his son, the two of them laughing and crying with joy. – Even though the boy hadn’t actually died, it was just as if Abraham had received him back from the dead.

Then, looking over behind the small altar they’d made, Abraham saw a sheep caught by its horns in a bush. (P) God had supplied the sacrifice after all.

Episode 10 – Abram and The Evil Cities

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapters 17 to 19

Abram and The Evil Cities

When I was 99 years old, God met with me. First He changed my name from Abram to Abraham, which means ‘father of many’ and then He changed Sara’s name to Sarah, which means ‘princess’. And we found that it wasn’t Ishmael who would be the promised son, but a child still to be born to Sarah, who was already very old!’

‘A little while later, God appeared to me yet again, but this time it was different. Three men, well, I thought they were men at first, came near our tent. Because it was our custom to be friendly to strangers, I hurried over to invite them to come and have a meal with us. One of the men was God Himself, in the form of a man, the other two were angels also in the form of men. As they sat with me, God told me that now was the time for the promise to be fulfilled! Sarah was to have a son in one year’s time!’

‘Sarah was listening in the tent and laughed because she thought, ‘How can an old woman like me have a baby?’ But God always keeps His promises.’

‘As God left, I walked with Him towards those evil cites in the river valley where Lot lived. As we looked over them, He told me that He was going to destroy them because the people were so evil. But what about Lot! He was living in one of those evil cities. As the angels went on ahead, I took my courage into my own hands and spoke with God.’ (P – GULP)

‘Erm, if you find 50 good people living in that city, surely you wouldn’t destroy the good people with the evil ones?’

GOD ‘If I find 50 good people, I won’t destroy the city,’ said God.

ABRAHAM ‘ Now that I’ve found the courage to ask’, I continued. ‘What if you only find 45?’

GOD ‘If I only find 45, I won’t destroy the city.’

ABRAHAM ‘And so our conversation continued, I asked about 40, then 30, 20 and finally 10. And each time God said that if He found that number of good people He wouldn’t destroy the city. Then He left.’

‘Meanwhile the two angels had arrived in the city where Lot and his family lived. And, as they arrived Lot happened to be sitting by the gate and encouraged them to stay at his home. At first they said no, but Lot insisted because he knew they wouldn’t be safe in the city square at night.’

‘And as night fell, all the men of the city came to Lot’s house and hammered on the door. ‘Bring out those strangers Lot – we want to hurt them. And if you don’t, we’re going to hurt you.’

‘Lot went out and tried to reason with them but they attacked him, and the angels quickly pulled Lot back inside. Then they blinded the men to stop them from finding the door and breaking it down. – The angels spoke to Lot.’

ANGEL ‘Are there any other members of your family in the city?’

LOT ‘Well yes, there are my daughters’ fiancées.’ He said.

ANGEL ‘Get them and your family out of the city now because we’re going to destroy this city for all the evil the people have done. Be quick!’

ABRAHAM ‘Lot rushed out to his daughters’ fiancées.’

LOT ‘Boys, we’ve got to leave now. There’s no time to waste! God’s going to destroy the city, and you too if you don’t leave now.’

ABRAHAM ‘But the boys thought he was joking and ignored him. The next morning the angels were even more insistent.’

ANGEL ‘Hurry up, get your wife and two daughters out of the city or you too will be caught up in the destruction.’

ABRAHAM ‘But still Lot hesitated. Maybe be couldn’t cope with the thought of losing everything, but God was merciful to poor weak Lot. The angels grabbed him, his wife and his two daughters by their hands and dragged them out of the city.’

ANGEL ‘Now run for your lives.’ They said to Lot and his family. ‘Don’t stop and don’t look back. Escape to the mountains or you will die.’

LOT ‘The mountains! I can’t go to the mountains,’ moaned Lot, ‘I’d die. Look, there’s a small village just over there. Couldn’t I just go there and be safe.’

ABRAHAM ‘All his life Lot had ignored what God wanted, and even now, in fear of His life, still Lot wouldn’t obey God. But even so, God was merciful to Lot and the Angels let him escape to the small village. (P) Lot and his daughters ran on ahead to the village, but his wife lagged behind, and when the fire and burning sulphur of judgement fell from heaven, wave upon wave, utterly destroying those evil cities, Lot’s wife – looked back. Instantly God judged her for doing what He had told her not to do through the Angels and turned her into a pillar of salt.’ (PAUSE)

‘The next morning I went back to look over the river valley. The destruction was terrible. The smoke from the burning sulphur was rising in columns to the sky. But God had answered my prayer, Lot was safe, even though he hadn’t learnt anything from that terrible tragedy.’

‘As for Sarah and me? God kept His promise; at the ripe old age of 100 I became the proud father of a little son born to Sarah. It was a real miracle. (P) Sarah laughed when he was born. Saying ‘who’d have thought such a thing would happen to an old woman like me?’ (P) We named him Isaac, which means ‘he laughs’.’

‘Although – the joy of having Isaac was overshadowed when he and Ishmael didn’t get on. Sarah saw Ishmael bullying young Isaac one day, and that was that! Sarah made me send Hagar and Ishmael away! – But God looked after them – and kept His promise to give Ishmael more descendants than he could ever count!’

Episode 9 – Hagar & Ishmael

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 16

Hagar & Ishmael

‘Hello, it’s me Abram again. Do you remember I told you how God promised me a son one day? He’d made that promise 10 years ago, and here I was – 86 years old and still no sign of a son. To be honest, it looked like Sara never would have any children. God had blessed her with great beauty but He’d also stopped her having children. And now Sara was getting older, and, well … not to put too fine a point on it … she was past childbearing age!’

‘One day, when Sara realised that she wasn’t able to have any children, she came to me with her servant, an Egyptian woman called Hagar. And she told me that because she couldn’t have any children, I should marry Hagar and that any children Hagar had, Sara would see as her own!’

‘To be honest I didn’t really think it through very well. Hagar was a nice woman, and Sara didn’t seem to mind, and it did look like a way of answering God’s promise of a son! (P) And… well – where I lived it was ok to have more than one wife … so I married Hagar. (PAUSE) Big mistake!’

‘You see, within no time at all Hagar became pregnant! She managed to do the one thing Sara couldn’t do in all the years we’d been married.’

‘That’s when I saw what a big mistake I’d made. You see when Hagar realised she was pregnant; she started to look down on Sara. Somehow she seemed to think she was more important than Sara because she was going to give me a baby. And instead of being a good servant she started to ignore Sara and not do her duties!’

‘One day – soon after, Sara came to my tent … she was in a really bad mood!’

‘It’s all your fault Abram! How could you let this happen! I was the one who let you marry Hagar and now that she’s pregnant, she’s treating me as a nobody! The Lord will make you pay for doing this terrible thing to me Abram!’

‘But dearest,’ I replied. ‘She’s your servant … you really ought to deal with the situation in whatever way you think’s best.’

‘That just made things worse! Sara started treating Hagar really badly; paying her back for all the trouble she’d caused. In fact, it wasn’t too surprising when we woke up one morning to find Hagar had run off. Sara had made her life so miserable she didn’t want to stay with us any longer.’

‘Poor Hagar didn’t know what to do. But when she stopped by a desert spring along a dusty road, God came and found her.’

‘Hagar, where’ve you come from, and where’re you going?’

‘I’m running away from my mistress,’ Hagar sobbed.

‘But then the Lord spoke tenderly to Hagar. ‘Return to your mistress and be obedient to her.’’

‘And then He started talking about the child she was going to have. ‘You’re pregnant with a son. When he’s born you are to call him Ishmael, which means ‘God hears’. For I have heard about your misery. This son of yours will be a wild one! Against everyone, and everyone against him! But through him you will have so many descendants that you won’t be able to count them all!’’ 

‘When Hagar realised it was the Lord who was speaking to her, she said, ‘I have seen the one who sees me.’ Later that well where she met the Lord was renamed – ‘the well of the Living One who sees me.’’

‘And so Hagar returned to Sara and me and gave birth to a little son. I called him Ishmael.’