Episode NT10 – A Foreigner with Faith

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – New Testament

Based on Luke chapter 7 verses 1 to 17

A foreigner with faith

 ‘I am a Centurion, a soldier of Rome and an officer in charge of 100 men. My commander has placed me here in Israel, in the town of Capernaum where I look after the interests of Rome and also do my best to work well with the people I rule over.’

‘When my commander sent me to Capernaum I did not question his command, but simply obeyed – as is my duty. And when I commanded my the 100 solders to come and set up barracks in Capernaum, they too did not question my command, but obeyed it – as is their duty.’

‘And during my time here I have learnt much about the religious beliefs of the Jewish people, and of the Great God they worship. I have learnt that He is sovereign – the absolute ruler over all things.’

‘And my dealings with the Jews have gone well so far, and, as it was in my power, I built a meeting place for them to come together and learn from their Holy writing – they call this place a synagogue. (P) We have grown close, these Jewish leaders and I, and I am satisfied with our relationship.’

‘But one day, not so long ago something went wrong – something that no one seemed able to do anything about. There are many servants and slaves in my household, and I try to treat them well, but one day I was called to one side to be told that one of the young men in my household, a slave of whom I am very fond, had taken ill and was on his death bed.’

‘At once I sent for the doctors to come and see what could be done. But after much time with the young man, I was told that there was no hope and that he would surely die. I was furious! What good is my authority and power now when I cannot do a single thing to save the life of my servant? And so I asked, is there nothing that can be done? Is there nobody who can help? (P) It was then that I was told about this man – Jesus. Of all the miracles He had performed, of all the people He had healed – and – by the grace of God – that He was close by.’

‘But why should such a man, a Holy and Pure man, a true Man of God come to my house, the house of His enemy – the house of the occupier that was so despised by most of the people of the land? What could I do that would make this Man come and heal my servant?’

‘And so I set upon a plan. I called at once on the leaders of the synagogue, those men for whom I had gone out of my way to help, and I asked them to go and see this Jesus on my behalf. (P) They honoured me by agreeing to go and ask Him to come and heal my servant, whose condition grew worse by the hour. And so they hurried off.’

‘But as they left, I began to think more about who this Jesus must be. There was no doubt that He was a man filled with the power of the living God, for how else could He do all these wonderful deeds. But what if He were more? What if He were God Himself – come as a man and with total power over all sickness and disease? What other explanation could there be? How else could this man do such wonderful things? And then I started to fear, who am I to ask such a person to come to my house? How can I, a nobody in this world, ask this wonderful Man to leave what He’s doing to come to my house and heal my servant?’

‘And so, I sent some of my own servants to meet Jesus before He arrived. And this was the message I gave them to pass on to Him. ‘Lord, please do not trouble yourself to come to my house; I am not worthy of such an honour. I am not even worthy to come and meet with you myself. But if you will just say the word – right where you are, then my servant will be healed. (P) I understand this, because I am a man under authority – answerable to my superior officer. And I too, have authority over my soldiers. If I say to one of them ‘Go’, they go. And if I say ‘Come,’ they come. And, if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this or do that,’ they do it. So I know that if you command it, the sickness will leave and my slave will be well again.’

‘After that I waited. And I now know exactly when my message was given to Jesus, for shortly after my servants left the house to meet with Him, my slave recovered – being completely healed – just like I knew He would be. How I thanked God for his recovery.’ (PAUSE)

‘Apparently, my messages caused Jesus some surprise. For my servants tell me that after they had delivered it, Jesus said that He had never seen faith like this in all Israel.’ (PAUSE)

‘But my story is just one of many stories of all this wonderful man Jesus has done. And the way He continuously brought great glory to God, were reported from wherever Jesus had been. For example, not long after Jesus had healed my slave, another story of His love for an outsider spread around the area like wildfire. It seems that as Jesus and His disciples had travelled around, they came to a small village called Nain, south of Nazareth. A great crowd of people were following Jesus, and as they came to Nain, another large crowd met them coming out of the village. But this crowd had not come to see Jesus, but to bury the dead son of a widow. And as they travelled out to the graveyard, the widow’s grief was enough to break your heart. Not only had she already lost her husband, but now her only son, and with him her only means of support – but now he was dead and to be buried with his father. The large crowd of mourners joined the lady in her grief, and as Jesus and His disciples came to them, Jesus Himself was deeply moved by her lost – so moved that His heart overflowed with compassion.’ (P)

‘And then He did something that had not been done in Israel for many centuries, not since the days of the great prophets of old. Looking at the poor widow so overcome with grief, Jesus said, ‘Don’t worry.’ Then He walked up to the coffin being carried by mourners, reached up and touched it. At this the whole procession stopped, and then Jesus called out, ‘Young man, get up!’’

‘At Jesus’ command, the young man, who had been dead in his open-topped coffin, sat up and started to talk to the people carrying him! They quickly put the coffin down and Jesus helped him out and gave him back to his mother.’

‘What joy followed – can only be imagined, but it was not the joy that we heard about, but the fear that swept through both sets of people, those following Jesus and those of the funeral procession. And the question on everybody’s lips was the same that had been on mine – ‘who is this man Jesus?’’

Episode 12 – A bride for Isaac

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 24

A Bride for Isaac

‘I am the servant of Abraham. And I am going to tell you how the God of Abraham blessed me when my master asked me to deal with a matter of great importance.’

‘When he spoke to me about this matter, Abraham was already a very old man. His dear wife Sarah had died. And his son Isaac, who was now in charge of the household, was missing his mother greatly. Isaac needed a wife!’

‘One day I was called to Abraham’s tent. My master had a look of concern on his face, and I could tell at once that the matter he wished to discuss with me was of the utmost importance.’

‘Thank you for coming’, he said. ‘You’re the most senior and important servant in my entire household. And so, I must ask you to do a very important thing for my family. (P) As you know, many years ago now, the Lord God told Sarah and me to leave Haran and come and live in this beautiful land of Canaan. The Lord promised that one day He’ll give this land to my descendants. But I’m concerned that in his loneliness, my son Isaac might think about marrying one of the girls from this country, a Canaanite. And that wouldn’t please God because they don’t know Him or worship Him. (P) So I want you to make me a solemn promise – one that you can’t break – I want you to swear by the Lord God of all heaven and earth that you will not let my son marry one of these local girls. Instead, I want you to go to the land that I came from, to my own relatives, and find a wife for Isaac from amongst them.’

 ‘I was horrified that he should ask such a thing of me and I replied, ‘But what if, when I have travelled such a distance, I cannot find a young woman who will return with me to live here? Could I then take Isaac to live amongst your own relatives in that place?’’

‘Abraham shook his head fiercely.’

‘No! Under no circumstances are you to ever let Isaac return to the place I left. God told me to leave – to come to this land. And it’s this land that He’s promised to my offspring.’ Then his face brightened up a little. ‘ Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘For God’ll send an angel ahead of you, and when you get there he’ll make sure that you find the right young woman for Isaac’. (P) Then he thought for a moment. ‘But – if she isn’t willing to come back with you, I’ll set you free from your solemn promise.’

‘My master was so sure of what His God would do. He seemed to believe that – already the Lord God was working things out to make sure His promises to my master would all come true. (P) I wish I could say that I had the same confidence he had. (P) In fact, if it had not been that my master would free me from my solemn promise if a woman would not come home with me, I do not know if I would have made the promise at all.’

‘But, as he had allowed me to be set free if the woman wouldn’t come, I made the solemn promise. – Then at once, I loaded 10 of my master’s camels with the best of everything he owned and started on my journey, travelling 400 miles to the north.’ (PAUSE)

‘It was early evening many days later when we came to the small town not too far from the city Abraham had originally come from. I made the camels kneel down beside a spring just at the time when the young women came out to collect water.’

‘But now what was I to do? I had travelled all this way (PAUSE) all I could do was ask the God of my master Abraham to make my journey successful, and so I prayed.’

‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham. Please show kindness to my master by giving me success and letting me achieve all I have set out to do. As I stand here beside this spring of water, and as the young women of the village come to fetch water – this is my request of You. I will ask one of these young women for a drink. If she agrees, and then offers to give water to my camels as well, then let her be the one who is to be a wife for Isaac. This is how I will know that you have shown Your kindness to my master.’

‘Even as I prayed, a beautiful young woman named Rebekah arrived with her water jar. After she had filled her jar with water, I ran over to her and asked, ‘Please may I have a drink?’’

‘‘Of course you can, sir,’ she replied. And took the jug from her shoulder to give me a drink. And then, when I had finished my drink, she turned to me and said, ‘Now I’ll get some water for your camels, until they’ve all had enough.’’

‘Could this be the one I had travelled so far to find? I watched in silence wondering if this was the woman the Lord intended me to meet. I watched as Rebekah emptied the rest of the jug of water into the watering trough for the camels and then ran back and forth from the spring to fill the trough until the camels had drunk all they wanted! (P) When the camels had finished drinking, I gave Rebekah a beautiful ring for her nose and two fine gold bracelets for her wrists.’

‘Then, hardly daring to ask, I said, ‘Who is your father? And would he have room to put me up for the night?’

‘She replied, ‘My father is Bethuel, son of Nahor. And yes, we have food for your camels and a room for you to stay as our guest.’ (P) Nahor! Nahor was Abraham’s brother! After all this travelling, the Lord God had led me right to my master’s own relatives! I fell down to the ground and worshipped God. ‘All praise to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, for He has been kind and faithful to Abraham and led me straight to my master’s own relatives.’’

‘After that I stayed by the spring while Rebekah ran to her home and told them all that had happened. And when her brother, Laban, saw the ring and the bracelets he rushed out to invite me to stay with them.’

‘I was so excited, after all I had gone through – to come to the home of a relative of my master Abraham. But I had still not told them of my purpose in coming this great distance. So when it was time for a meal, I could not eat until I had told them all – why I had come.’

‘I am the servant of Abraham,’ I started. ‘The Lord God has blessed my master with great wealth, servants, cattle, camels and donkeys. And when my master’s wife Sarah was in her old age, she gave my master a son, and Abraham has given everything he owns to his son. Now, my master made me swear a solemn promise that I would not let Isaac, his son, marry one of the girls living in Canaan because they do not worship God. Instead, he told me to travel to his own relatives in the land he came from to find a young woman to be Isaac’s wife.’

‘I was fearful to make that promise. ‘What if I cannot find such a woman,’ I asked. But Abraham replied, ‘You will find her – because the Lord – in whose presence I have walked will send an angel with you to give you success.’ But he also told me that if the woman refused to come with me, I would be freed from my promise.’

‘This very afternoon as I came to the spring, I prayed this prayer. ‘O Lord of my master Abraham, if you are planning to make my mission a success, then please guide me in a special way. Here I am standing beside a spring. I will ask a young woman for a drink, as she comes to collect water. If she agrees, and then offers to water my camels as well, then I will know that she is the one You have chosen as a wife for my master’s son.’

‘Before I had even finished my prayer, Rebekah came and did just as I had prayed. And so I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord. I praised Him because He had led me to find a wife from the family of me master’s own relatives.’

‘So now, I need to know, will you show real kindness to my master Abraham and let Rebekah come back with me?’ (PAUSE)

‘Then Laban, Rebekah’s brother, and Bethuel her father replied, ‘The Lord’s obviously brought you here, so what else can we say? Take Rebekah with you and let her become the wife of your master’s son, just as the Lord has directed.’

‘Once again I worshipped the Lord and bowed to the ground. Then I gave beautiful gifts to Rebekah and valuable presents to her mother and brother. And only then did I eat my food and rest for the night.’(PAUSE)

‘Early the next morning I awoke and prepared to leave. I asked the family’s permission to be on my way as soon as possible. But they replied, ‘We were hoping that Rebekah could stay with us ten more days!’ Ten days! I did not want to wait at all, I wanted to get back to show my master how good the Lord had been to him, and so I asked. ‘Please, don’t hold me back. The Lord has blessed my journey with success and I want to go back and report to my master.’

‘Well,’ they replied. ‘We’ll have to see what Rebekah has to say about it.’ So they called Rebekah over. ‘Are you willing to go with this man now?’ they asked her.’

‘Yes I’m willing to go,’ she replied.

‘And so they said their goodbyes to each other. (P) It was to be the last time they saw each other in this world. And Rebekah, along with her maid who had looked after her as a young child, came with me. As she left, Rebekah’s family blessed her saying…’

‘Sister, may you become the mother of many millions! May your descendants overcome all their enemies.’ (PAUSE)

‘Isaac was in the south of Canaan when we came home. It is a dry, dusty and open landscape. He saw us coming from a long way off and started towards us to welcome us.’

‘Rebekah saw Isaac coming towards us. She got down from her camel and asked me who it was that was coming to meet us?

I smiled, ‘It is my master – Isaac.’ Quickly, as was the custom during that time, Rebekah covered her face with a veil. And when we arrived, I told Isaac about all the Lord had done for me on my long journey north.’ (PAUSE)

‘And so Isaac took Rebekah as his wife, and loved her very much. And she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother.’

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.