Why Some People Have One More Than Their Brothers: Genesis 48:21-22

Genesis Baby Boomers Prosperity

Dungeon Below Blarney Castle

Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.” Genesis 48:21-22

Baby Boomer Behavior

Lately I’ve noticed the abundance said and written by twenty and thirty-somethings about how “that miserable baby boomer generation has failed us.”

“They’re greedy geezers.”

“They’re leaving us a great burden of debt.”

“The leaders from their generation are short sighted and selfish.”

“It’s as though they threw a big party and left it to us to clean up their mess.”

And besides all that, “They told us we could be anything we wanted as long as we put our minds to it. I found out recently — I can’t be an astronaut after all.”

Let me just tell you what I think about all these statements, they’re all undeniably Continue reading

Genesis 18:9-15 Is anything too hard for the LORD?

Pray nothing too hard for GodRead Genesis 18:9-15

In verse nine the strangers asked Abraham, “Where is your wife Sarah?” Being strangers, how might they know Abraham’s wife’s name? Up until this point, for all Abraham knew, these three were just some nomads passing through. In his mind they were strangers that he would likely never see again. Yet he entertained them well. Abraham didn’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, and by so doing he showed hospitality to angels (and the Lord) without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. This may have been the first clue that these three were more than just strangers passing through.

“There in the tent,” he said in verse nine.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” (v. 10)

Jesus said in Matthew 10 that “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)

So Abraham, having entertained angels and our Lord unawares, is now going to receiving blessings from the same. When they uttered this prophecy it must have, at this point, removed any doubt Abraham may have had regarding who his guests really were. These were no ordinary strangers. These were beings carrying God’s prophetic word from heaven!

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (v. 10, 12)

In Genesis chapter 17 Abraham may have laughed in delight in response to hearing God’s promises. But without a doubt Sarah laughs out of doubt, and even out of cynicism toward God’s promise here in chapter 18.

Then the Lord asks what must have been to Him the most natural question in the universe, He asked, “Why?” “Why did Sarah laugh and say, Will I really have a child, now that I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v. 13-14) He asked the latter question rhetorically of course. Then He answers the rhetorical question by saying in effect, “I have even set a date for this!” He says, “I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (v. 14)

Now the picture painted in the scripture to me describes that Sarah was out of sight behind the flaps of the tent and that she laughed to herself. So initially Sarah may have thought that she was safe from discovery. Surprised that these supernatural guests knew of her laughter and her thoughts she became afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” (v. 15) We often lie to avoid embarrassment but in reality when we try to cover up a mistake we only add iniquity to iniquity. God sees and hears what goes on behind the flaps of our tents. He knows our hearts. He knows our minds. There’s nothing hidden from Him. We’re transparent to Him. You might think that some things you do are done alone and in secret but in reality, you’re never alone.

Yet even though the Lord knows that Sarah laughed amiss and then lied about it, He shows great mercy when He doesn’t chastise Sarah but simply says, “Yes you did laugh.” (v. 15)

Sarah was looking at her circumstances and thinking, this is just too hard. But God’s response to Sarah was, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v. 14)

You might be out of work right now and you might be finding it tough to land a job. It seems hard, maybe even impossible. And you’re right, it is hard. Times are tough. The economy is down. Jobs are scarce. It’s hard. It’s hard for you, but pray it through! Because nothing is too hard for the Lord.

A friend of mine lost her husband yesterday. He passed away after an eighteen year battle with cancer. You may have lost a loved one recently, perhaps he or she passed away, or perhaps you lost your loved one when your relationship ended. It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating. You can feel it, even physically, I know. But the Lord will bring you through it because nothing is too hard for Him.

He created the earth and all that’s in it. He created the atom in it’s microscopic form, electrons flying around a nucleus and they somehow make up all matter.

He created the animals and the plants. He created the human body with all of its various systems: the circulatory system, the nervous system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, the muscular system, the respiratory system, and somehow all of these systems work in harmony to make up a physical living human being. And He did it using nothing but dirt.

He created VY Canis Majoris, the largest star in the known universe. It’s so big that you could fit 7,000,000,000,000,000 or 7 quadrillion earths inside of it.

He created a way for you and I to be saved from our sins, with His Son, Jesus, He provided the way.

If you want to be blessed and encouraged in your current circumstance, do a word search in scripture for the phrase “but God.” (Bible Gateway search for “but God”) You’ll learn how over and over, after human resources have reached their limit, God intervenes and changes everything. There are situations that are too hard for you and for me, but God…

Yes it’s hard right now, for you. But you’re problem isn’t too hard for God. Nothing’s too hard for God.

He’s there for you, you have access to Him.

Pray. Pray through the hard time.

You won’t regret it. I promise.

God has said,

   “Never will I leave you; 
   never will I forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

Genesis 18:9-15

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

[Image via Omar Infante-Ramos – Creative Commons]

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson

Genesis 18:1-8 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day

Abraham at the Trees of Mamre (courtesy of http://kevinsisraeltrip.blogspot.com)

Read Genesis 18:1-8

At the end of Genesis chapter 17 we saw Abraham and all the males of his household circumcised. Circumcision in the Old Testament is a picture of the circumcision spoken of in Colossians 2:11: Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ…

So here in chapter 18, as we observe Abraham after circumcision, we get a look at what life looks like after the Lord has circumcised a man.

Right off you the reader are told who the visitor is as it says in verse one that the Lord appeared to Abraham. But Abraham had no way of knowing. We see in verse two that to him the three appeared to be three men. Some have said that the three represent the three persons of the Trinity. My own belief is that this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ along with two angels. As Matthew Henry says, “the appearance of God to Abraham seems to have had in it more of freedom and familiarity, and less of grandeur and majesty, than those we have hitherto read of; and therefore more resembles that great visit which, in the fullness of time, the Son of God was to make to the world, when the Word would be flesh, and appear as one of us.”  Regardless, Abraham’s response to, what to him were three strangers, is very instructional.

To start with, it’s worth mentioning that the Lord appears to Abraham in the heat of the day. Most of the time, that seems to be the case in life. It’s when the heat is on in life, it’s when we’re in the midst of problems that the Lord seems to draw near. The deeper the trouble, the closer He seems to come. The hotter the fire, the nearer His presence. But it’s important to remember that we’re better off in the furnace with Him, than out of the furnace without Him. The heat that we experience in this life, is nothing compared to the heat you could experience in eternity, should you choose to live apart from Christ.

So the Lord draws near to Abraham in the heat of the day — appearing along with a couple of angels as three men, three travelers. I wonder if this was a test from the Lord. A test to see if Abraham was circumcised in his heart as well as in his flesh.

When I was in school I was a crammer. If I knew a test was coming ahead of time, I could study at the eleventh hour, even all night if necessary, and I could pass the test. Well, I’m still in school today but now I’m in God’s school, as are you. And God doesn’t seem to schedule or forewarn of His coming tests. The afternoon is beautiful, you’ve set some time aside to relax at the entrance of your tent, or at the park, or on the beach, or at the pool, and you’re interrupted. Your son or daughter wants to play, your wife needs a hand with something, or your phone rings and it’s a friend or family member who needs a listening ear. What will you do?

Let’s take a look at what Abraham did. Abraham, in the heat of the day and in spite of the heat of the day, which could be in the 120’s Fahrenheit in that part of the world, hurries to minister to these strangers. He hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. (v. 2) He hurried to help and he presented himself in humility. Those who are truly great before God tend not to present themselves as great before men. “Christ Himself taught us to wash one another’s feet.” (Matthew Henry) Post circumcised Abraham demonstrates this principle of humility. Then he invites, even insists, that the strangers stay with him to rest and take refreshment. The strangers agree to stay and Abraham is off hurrying again. He hurries inside the tent and has Sarah quickly bake some fresh bread. He runs to the herd and selects the best calf and has one of his people prepare it. Then he brings the calf, the bread, some cottage cheese (curds), and some milk and sets them before his guests.

He didn’t offer a coke and a cookie. He didn’t offer a snack. It would be like what I’ve seen my wife Kathy do so many times for guests in our home. She’ll cook up some steaks and serve them with twice baked potatoes, some corn, some peas, some salad with what seems like twenty different vegetables in it, some fresh bread. There’s a choice of five or six different types of dressing. She’ll have a choice of five or six different types of drinks — juices, milk, sodas, lemonade, iced tea. All that is followed by a couple of choices of dessert.

That’s what it was like for Abraham except that he even had to have the cow slaughtered right there on the spot, and Sarah had to bake the bread from scratch! Wow! All that in the heat of the day. Abraham couldn’t have treated them better. He passed his test, he really did have a circumcised heart, living according to the Spirit and not after the flesh. Living for others.

Ray Stedman has told the story of a speaker at a conference who commented on the trend in our culture of increasing apathy toward those in need. This speaker said that he and a colleague were walking down the street and they came upon a drunken person, laying on the ground, half on the sidewalk and half on the street. They were appalled at how the people were walking over and around him, ignoring his plight. “And you know,” he said, “when we came back from lunch he was still there!”

But seriously, God wants us to live for others. This is the pure religion that God tells us about in James 1:27.

Serving others with a circumcised heart is what Jesus was talking about when He said that the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

So the test for you and the test for me is the same as the test for Abraham. Our culture today pulls us inward. We’re more selfish than ever. We don’t want our Facebook time, or our TV time, or our video game time to be interrupted by three strangers or by anything else for that matter. But God says that we’re to answer when the three strangers approach us. We’re to open the door of our tent to the Lord. Jesus said, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Christ is knocking. Open the door as Abraham did and let Him in. Live your life according to the Spirit with a heart that’s circumcised of the flesh.

Live for others.

Live for Christ.

Genesis 18:1-8

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson


Genesis 17 Part Two: I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you


Read Genesis 17

Yes, I know, we’re still in Genesis chapter 17, but it’s so rich that I can’t resist sharing more from this chapter.

Two weeks ago we talked about how Abram, the friend of God, didn’t hear from God for fifteen years. We covered how God sometimes builds our faith by putting us in situations where we don’t hear from Him in the way we anticipated, in the way we desired, or perhaps for a long period of time we seemingly won’t hear from Him in any way at all. We also looked at what we’re to do during those times between God’s speaking to us: how we’re to be faithful in our walk and in what God has set before us to accomplish at church, with our family, at work, etc. (see previous post on Genesis 17:1)

Last week we looked at Abraham’s verbal reply to God’s grace and how faithful God and Christ are to us. They never fail us but are faithful to fulfill their promises. God will always do what’s best for you — always. (see previous post: Genesis Chapter 17 Part One)

This week we’ll cover the story of Genesis chapter 17 in its entirety.

So when Abram’s ninety-nine years old God engages Him in a very powerful and direct manner. The first words out of God’s mouth are “I am God Almighty…” (El Shaddai in the Hebrew) God goes on to tell Abram that he’s to walk before Him faithfully and blamelessly. And He tells Abram again, as He did in Genesis chapter 15, that He will make a covenant with him.

Abram’s response? He falls face down. I like that. That’s how we should respond to God’s presence, with reverence for God and with humility for ourselves.

After that God imparts a more thorough understanding of His covenant to Abram as compared to what He said to Abram in chapter 15. He tells him that he will be “the father of many nations.” And He denotes the covenant by changing Abram’s name from Abram to Abraham, adding the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The number five is the number of grace in the Bible and God’s adding the fifth letter to Abram’s name speaks of God’s grace and faithfulness toward Abraham and his descendants. Over and over again we’ll hear powerful words of grace and blessing from God in this chapter. God tells Abraham that he’ll be the father of many nations and that kings will come from him. He shares that this covenant is an everlasting covenant with Abraham and with his descendants. This is interesting because many from the Muslim faith prefer to believe that God’s covenant with Israel is no longer valid. Personally, I think I’ll go with what God says rather than what men say. God goes on to say that this everlasting covenant means that God will be Abraham’s God and the God of Abraham’s descendants. Then he promises Abraham the whole land of Canaan as an everlasting possession to Abraham and his descendants.

Then God said to Abraham that in addition to walking before Him faithfully and blamelessly, Abraham, Abraham’s male descendants, any male born in Abraham’s household, and any male slave must be circumcised. And anyone not circumcised would be cut off from his people.

I’ll never forget the time when my two sons Gabe and Nate were circumcised. When they were born we were living in a community where the practice of circumcision was considered to be an old fashioned and unnecessary tradition. But after a few years and several unsuccessful battles with minor infections, it became obvious that there are good reasons for circumcision. So we had it done when Gabe was around three and Nate was around one. It was amazing. They were so brave. Afterwards their attitudes were great! They were both very cheerful but oh how carefully and gingerly they walked.

So Abraham’s household was to walk faithfully and blamelessly. And they were to walk awkwardly as well, at least for a day or two — after circumcision.

God then changes Sarai’s name to Sarah. Adding the same letter, the fifth letter, of the alphabet to her name as well. Again, thus emphasizing God’s grace in this exchange and in these promises. God goes on to share that Sarah will bear Abraham a son and will be the mother of nations. He says that kings will come from her!

At this point Abraham laughs at God’s promise to bless him with a son from Sarah. After all, at the time of birth he’ll be one hundred and she’ll be ninety! Romans 4:20 says that he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, so with that in mind, either Abraham laughed out of skepticism but God showed him grace in Romans 4:20, or, Abraham laughed with delight at God’s promise and indeed he did not waver at this point in our story. This is one of many questions I hope will be answered on the other side of heaven. After Abraham laughs he falls into the coulda, woulda, shoulda trap. He made a mess by taking Hagar and now he asks God to bless his mess. How much better off we are when, rather than asking God to do what WE want Him to do, we ask God to do what HE wants to do. It makes so much sense for He who with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens to make the call rather than a tiny speck of dust like me! (Isaiah 40:12) How much better it would have been for Abraham to pray, “Lord, I messed up. What do YOU want to do now?”

God is so gracious in response to Abraham. If I were God my attitude might have been, “laugh at Me will you?!” Then I might have sent a lightening bolt to earth within a few yards of Abraham’s location — just to get his attention. But God doesn’t do that. Instead He simply replies to Abraham, telling him that yes, indeed your wife Sarah will bear you a son and you’ll name him Isaac by the way. Then God says that He’ll establish His everlasting covenant with Isaac.

And He shows more grace by blessing Ishmael. He promises to make him fruitful. He promises that Ishmael will be the father of twelve rulers and that he will become a great nation. “But,” He says, “My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” (Genesis 17:21)

And that was the end of the conversation. God went up from Abraham.

So Abraham does something very wise at this point. Disregarding that it would be painful, that to adults it was shameful, that his enemies might take advantage during those first few days of awkward walking after the deed was done, disregarding that it might prove offensive to the Canaanites Abraham goes for it. He doesn’t wait. He obeys immediately. On that very day he takes his son Ishmael and all the males, of his family, and of all those who were not family but a part of his household, and of all his slaves, and he circumcises them. There’s wisdom in obeying God’s commands immediately.

And Abraham doesn’t leave himself out even though he’s ninety-nine! Age and experience are often used as an excuse to remain on the sidelines. Not so with Abraham for he is circumcised along with everyone else. This is a great example for husbands and fathers. Your example is often the most powerful thing you have in leading your family.

In verse one the name God Almighty is El Shaddai in the Hebrew. This is the first time in the Bible that we see this particular name used to describe God. El refers to the right arm which speaks of God’s strength. As Psalm 18:2 tells us, The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Shaddai is derived from another word meaning breast which speaks of nourishment and nurturing. So we see that God is our strength and our protector as well as our loving nurturing provider.

And in His love, even as He provided Abraham with the promised land of Canaan, He provides all those who abide in Jesus with our own promised land, for Christ said,

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3)

“…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

Genesis 17

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

Genesis Chapter 17

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Jon Couson’s Application Commentary, Volume 1

Matthew Henry Commentary

Genesis 17 Part One: I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you


Read Genesis 17

My nephew Kody and his friend Eric, who he served with in Iraq, stayed with us for a few days this week. During their stay I marveled at how close they are to each other.

There’s a bonding that occurs between men in combat that others can’t understand. It comes from fighting together, shoulder to shoulder. It comes from surviving together in the face of a life threatening enemy. The bond is especially strong toward one who gives everything he has for his fellow soldiers. This is a story about such a man.

For the last several years he gave everything he had to his comrades. He helped them endure through great battles. He helped them to overcome many great challenges. They survived many attacks from the enemy together. They accomplished great things together. They had bonded the way soldiers bond. They were friends on a level others couldn’t understand. Yet here came one of them, one of his friends, to expose him to the enemy — for money.

Realizing he was about to be betrayed, his heart sank, he felt sick at the thought. Betrayed by a friend. As his friend approached the man gave him one last chance to change his mind.

Must you betray me? he asked.

His friend didn’t reply but just signaled the enemy forces, revealing him, exposing him.

He could have escaped right then. There was a window of opportunity when he could have run. But he sensed that this was a way he could complete his mission. So he purposed in his heart to go. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

He was carried off by the authorities. Once in their control, they attempted to trick him into a confession, they lied about him, they spit on him. But he persevered. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

They asked him questions, insinuating questions. They mocked him, they ridiculed him. But he endured. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

More questions, more insinuations. They beat him, they punched him. Finally, desperate to break him, they beat him to a bloody pulp. But he would not break, he would not give up! He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

He was determined to die because dying was the only way. So he carried his cross and allowed them to nail him to it. He hung there in shame, in pain, while people mocked and ridiculed him.

He hung there, God’s own Son, the very last person who deserved to be nailed to that cross. The only truly innocent one. The only one who walked before God faithfully and blamelessly would die in order to complete His mission.

Finally he said the words, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Mission accomplished.


As you look over Genesis 17 notice how everything that God says to Abraham is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. God’s approach is right out of Philippians 4:8! His words are nothing but good and full of blessing. He says to Abraham, “Walk before me faithfully and be blameless…” “You will be the father of many nations.” “I will make you very fruitful…” “kings will come from you…” (Genesis 17:1, 4, 6)

Concerning Sarah God says, “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:16)

But the one paragraph where Abraham opens his mouth he laughs at God’s promises and he whines about God’s distribution of blessings: …he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” (Genesis 17:17-18) Now we have to keep in mind that Romans 4:20 says of Abraham that he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God. So it may be that Abraham was laughing with delight at the great promise that God gave him. I have to confess that most of the Bible teachers I follow and respect ascribe to this thought. But I can’t help but wonder if God, as He so often does, isn’t demonstrating His grace toward Abraham in Romans 4:20, in a similar way to how He showed His grace to Sarah when He included her in the hall of faith. (Hebrews 11:11) I suppose we won’t know the answer until we’re over on the other side.

Either way, God responds with grace toward Abraham. He displays yet more faithfulness toward Abraham…

“…your wife Sarah will bear you a son.” and “as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him…” (Genesis 17:19, 20)

Here’s the reality: God is faithful but people are not. God is faithful but people are not. God is faithful but people are not. Abraham and his children fell short in keeping their end of the covenant. They didn’t walk before God faithfully. They didn’t lead a blameless life.

But God was faithful anyway.

God was faithful to Abraham, to Sarah, to Isaac, and to Ishmael in spite of their shortcomings.

And God is faithful to you and to me in the same way.

Jesus was and is faithful to you. He was faithful to die on the cross for your sins. In spite of the betrayals, the lies, the mocking, and the beatings, Jesus was faithful to complete His mission for you and for me.

He was faithful to you. He died so you could experience eternal life. He had to die on your behalf because the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 KJV)

That should have been me up there on that cross, that should have been you. But Jesus took your place.

He laid down his life for you.

Listen to your heart right now! You know what you need to do. You need to come to him, to Jesus Christ, and ask him into your life, into your heart.

So do it right now! Ask Him in. Pray along these lines, “Jesus, thank You for dying for my sins. I believe in You. Please be my God, my Savior, my King, and my Friend. Amen.”

It’s oh so much more about God’s faithfulness than it is about your faith.

The bottom line is that He is faithful, He loves you, He will save you.

You have but to ask.


Genesis 17

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

Genesis Chapter 17

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Jon Couson’s Application Commentary, Volume 1

The Life of Jesus

A Days Journey by Jon Courson

Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him

Full of Faith and Faithful - photo from CBS News

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him

Genesis 17:1

Andy Olson is a man’s man. He’s an Oregon State Representative now but in 2001 he was an Oregon State Police Lieutenant. At 6’3″ tall he’s a formidable figure. In the fall of 2001 Andy Olson and I traveled to New York City with a group of Christian firefighters, dispatchers, and law enforcement personnel. Our mission was simple. We wanted to see what we might be able to do to help in the aftermath of the attack on the twin towers.

During much of our time there the tone was somber (we attended more funerals than I can remember) but occasionally we did find time for some levity.

Most of our group entered into a contest of sorts, adopting the classic New Yorker greeting, “How-ya-doin?” with the goal of seeing who could pass as a Native New Yorker out on the street. But I noticed that Andy declined to participate.

One evening as a group of us arrived back at our hostel we overheard Andy practicing his “How-ya-doins,” alone in our room. Except that the “How-ya-doins” kept coming out “How’re you doing?” or “HOW are YOU doing?”

He sounded like Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) from the TV show Third Rock From the Sun. It was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard. When Andy realized that we had overheard, the poor guy was mortified. It was at that time that a Fire Lieutenant from Corvallis named Steve Bowen took Andy under his wing and began to coach him on the nuances of how to deliver this classic New York greeting.

A few evenings later Andy and Steve were walking down the street in Times Square with Andy practicing his “How-ya-doins” when he finally nailed it. He sounded precisely like a native New Yorker. Just then a large African-American man who was a local approached.

“Do it!” Steve urged. “Greet him! You’ve got it. You can do it.”

“How’re you doing?” Andy sang out, reverting back to his Dick Solomon (Lithgow) delivery.

The native New Yorker laughed hysterically.

Back to Genesis: In Genesis 17 Abram is ninety-nine years old and it’s been fifteen years since he’s had a conversation with God. Why on earth would God not speak to the man who the scriptures tell us was God’s friend? (James 2:23)

Maybe that’s where you’re at right now. Perhaps you’ve been seeking the Lord and wondering why He doesn’t seem to respond in a way that causes you to experience His presence. Perhaps you’re feeling as though God is not with you in the way that you desire Him to be.

Take heart! Abram, God’s friend, had to wait fifteen years between conversations!

Remember, he’s not only called God’s friend, but Abram is also called the father of faith. God used the time between conversations to build Abram’s faith. And He’s using this time in your life when you’re not discerning His presence to build yours!

The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) So God, being far more concerned with our relationship with Him than He is with our current comfort, will do what He knows to be best for you and for me by putting us in situations that build faith.

Faith is the language of heaven. Fortunately for then OSP Lieutenant Andy Olson, it wasn’t important that he learn to speak the language of the native New Yorkers. But in heaven, few things will be more important than being fluent in the language of faith. Because your ability to communicate in the language of heaven which is faith, is one of the keys to your relationship with God Himself. (Hebrews 11:6)

But there’s more. There’s another aspect of faith. What are we to do during the fifteen years between conversations?

We’re to be faithful.

You may have seen in the news the tragic story of the Criado family in Medford, Oregon. According to the Mail Tribune, police suspect that the father and husband of the family, Jordan Criado, stabbed his wife, killing her, and set his house on fire killing their four children.

My fire department responded to this incident. My own role had to do with extinguishing the fire, but most of the firefighters and law enforcement personnel on duty that day had their hands on those patients. They had their hands on those kids. They did everything they could to save those lives. Sadly, the outcome was already decided before we arrived.

I spoke with many who were on the scene that day and more than one recognized that they were performing extraordinary life saving measures on patients who were already beyond help. But, even knowing this, they were faithful to continue those efforts.

I know many of the firefighters involved in that incident to be believers. Year after year they come to work each day, dedicated to doing their job with all their heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23) They’re faithful in what the Lord has given them to do.

So what are you to do during the fifteen years between conversations? Be faithful. Be faithful in what the Lord has given you to do: at work, as a husband, as a father, as a member of your church, as a youth sports coach, as a volunteer at your local school.

Be faithful in all these things. The next conversation with God will be here before you know it.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men

Colossians 3:23

References:

www.leg.state.or.us/olson/

http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/07/medford_familys_domestic_disaster_envelops_firefighters.html

Mail Tribune: 10th Street Tragedy

Jon Courson

Genesis 16:1-4 “Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

Genesis 16:1-4

Human beings will let you down every time.

It doesn’t matter who you choose to look to: Brett Favre, or Miley Cyrus, or your husband, or your wife, or your father, or your boss, or your pastor, or your best friend — you’re in for a disappointment.

Last post we looked at Abram’s amazing encounter with God and we spent quite a bit of time exploring the excellent things Abram did with his life that resulted in his receiving God’s best. Abram went where God was, he sacrificed things of value, he waited on the Lord, and he drove away the birds of prey. (see To your descendants I give this land)

Now, here, in Genesis chapter 16, we see Abram’s humanity.

Abram’s 86 and Sarai’s 76. As is nearly always the case, there’s a gap of time between when God gave His promise and the fulfillment of that promise. Thirteen years in this case. Sarai was tired of waiting on the Lord for the promised fruit from her womb. For a barren woman to give a maidservant to her husband in order to have children on her behalf was a common custom in Abram’s time. So Sarai says to Abram, “Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (v. 2)

Yes it was accepted in society at that time.

Yes it was Abram’s own wife, Sarai, who was admonishing Abram to do this.

Yes it seemed as though this was the only way Abram and Sarai would see any fruit, any family, any children, any descendants.

But in spite of these seemingly compelling circumstances, Abram ought not to have done it. He had a choice and he chose to agree with Sarai. (v. 2) Abram was the leader of his family and part of being the leader is doing what’s best in God’s sight, even when society offers an easy way out. Even when others are telling you to do otherwise. Even if it’s your wife who is doing the telling.

Parenthetically, on the topic of sex outside of marriage, I know of men today who feel that they have valid reasons for engaging in extramarital sex. “Yea but I’m not getting my needs met at home.” or “Yea but this way I don’t have to bother her.” or even one guy I knew who said, “Yea but my wife and I have an arrangement.”

Doesn’t matter. God would have you do the right thing according to His word, whatever your circumstances.

Abram fell. And as we’ll see, this caused heartache, strife, and trouble for Abram, Abram’s family, and Abram’s descendants. In fact Abram’s decision to take Hagar is being felt by Abram’s descendants even today.

Abram provided a great example for us to follow in Genesis chapter 15, but we can’t look to Abram as our complete model of how to live life. We have only to turn the page over to chapter 16 and Abram falls. Like any other person, Abram will let you down every time.

Roger Federer’s one of my favorite athletes. He’s considered by most to be the greatest tennis player who ever lived. In grand slam tournaments, when Roger’s up two sets to zero, his match record is an incredible 178 and 0. That is until last week. Last week he was up two sets to zero, in a grand slam tournament, against a player with a double digit ranking named Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Roger Federer lost.

Only one Person won’t let you down. That person is Jesus Christ.

Look to Him.

God is love. Love never fails.

1 John 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:8

References:

Associated Press

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Jon Courson

Genesis 15:12-21 To your descendants I give this land

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

Genesis 15:12-21

Are you blessed? Have you received abundant blessings from God? In case you’re interested in learning how to receive God’s best, before us we have a case study in Abram on how to do just that. First will look at the five blessings Abram received from God on this day and then we’ll look at five keys to Abram’s life that resulted in his receiving God’s best.

Abram’s Blessings

1) From Abram’s descendants a great nation:

Referring to Israel’s 400 years of captivity in Egypt, in verses 13 and 14 God tells Abram, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.” (v. 13)  

This blessing is huge! Abram and Sarai haven’t even produced one child yet and God is already providing information about the future of the nation of Israel!

2) God’s protection:

In verse 14 God continues, “But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” God promised Abram that his descendants would become a great nation of people and that He would protect them in the end. Though they would endure a season of difficulty, in the end God promises to rescue them and to bring justice upon the nation that enslaved Israel.

3) Peace and long life:

God promises Abram peace and a long life when He tells Abram that he will go to his ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. (v. 15)

4) Tangible material blessing:

God blesses Abram’s descendants, the nation of Israel, with a very large territory, a vast tract of land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (v. 18-21) A territory that’s somewhere around 300,000 square miles in size.

Royal Land Grant that God gave to Israel through the Abraham Covenant (courtesy of Files From Toni Blog)

The red line that’s overlaid onto a current map of the Middle East, indicates what the size of the territory that God gave to Abram might look like.

5) A glimpse into the future:

Finally, all of these blessings are given as promises. They’re given to Abram in the form of the prophetic word coming directly from God Himself. Abram receives the rare blessing of a glimpse into his own future and the future of his descendants.

Can you imagine!? What must that have been like? Say you’ve purposed in your heart to spend some time alone with God. You find a quiet place. You read a verse from scripture, you pray, you read. After awhile the sun sets and you drift off to sleep. But it’s not a normal sleep. You can tell that something’s different. You feel it. You sense it. And then, you find yourself in God’s presence. He’s sharing with you. He’s talking directly to you. He’s giving you the scoop on the future of your descendants. You’re given a promise by God himself that you’re going to live a long and peaceful life. And finally, God promises you a family ranch that’s larger than the state of Texas!

Abram’s Life

So how did Abram come to experience these tremendous blessings from above. Was he just lucky?

What can you do to experience God’s blessings in the way that Abram did? Below you’ll find five keys to Abram’s life that resulted in his receiving God’s best.

1) Abram went where God was.

Abram was told by God where to go and Abram went.

In Genesis 12 God said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you…” (Genesis 12:1) Abram was told by God where to go and Abram went there and there, not too surprisingly, he found God.

And that’s how it is for you and for me. When you’re where God wants you to be your chances of encountering God increase dramatically!

Is God telling you, “Go from the couch, your TV, and your bag of chips to My word and to prayer?” Then go there!

Is God telling you, “Go from your Facebook page to your car and head for church?.” Then go!

Go where God is and you’ll receive promises, you’ll be blessed. If you’re not where God is you’re missing out on God’s best for your life!

Go into His word. Go to prayer. Hang out with other Christians. Sing praises to Him.

Go to church!

It’s been said for us to go to the spout where the blessings pour out. If you’re not under the spout, you’re going to miss out.

Go where God is. That’s where the blessings are.

2) Abram sacrificed things of value.

When Abram set up for the covenant he brought a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon. (Genesis 15:9) In Abram’s day these were all things of great value. Heifers provided meat. Goats produced milk. Rams gave wool. Doves and pigeons were food. When Abram brought these to the Lord it cost him something.

When you come to the Lord it costs you something. It costs you your time. It costs you energy. If you invest in His kingdom by tithing and/or giving to your church it costs you money. Sometimes your commitment to Him and His ways may cost you a promotion at work. Sometimes your passion for Him may cost you friends.

Be quick to sacrifice temporal things of value in your life to engage with God. Sacrifice some of your time. Sacrifice some of your money. Sacrifice some of your hobby. Sacrifice some of your time in front of the TV.

The God who created the universe is worth it!

3) Abram waited.

Abram set the stage for the covenant — then he waited. He’s one in a long list of Godly men and women who practiced waiting on God’s timing. The Bible is full of God’s people who have waited. Sarah waited for a son. Moses waited for his people to be delivered. David waited to become king of Israel. Joseph waited in prison for the king’s servant to remember him. Ruth waited for a husband. Noah waited for the flood waters to recede. The list goes on and on.

Wait on God. Be faithful in your waiting. Trust in His timing.

God usually takes longer than I’d like Him to but in the end His timing always turns out to be perfect!

Wait.

4) Abram drove away the birds of prey.

We looked at this in the last post. Abram drove away the birds of prey that descended on the sacrifices laid before the Lord for the making of the covenant. (Genesis 15:11) In your life these birds of prey look like distractions, negative thoughts or feelings, or even family or friends who might  begin to feel uncomfortable around you as God grows you into who He wants you to become. See Your very great reward for more on driving away the birds of prey.

I’m not saying that if you practice what Abram did, you’ll inherit a ranch larger than Texas. God blesses each of his children uniquely. What He had in mind for Abram is different from what He has in mind for you. And what He has in mind for you is different than what He has in mind for me.

Intimacy with God results in different blessings for different people.

But to receive God’s best we have to live our lives according to Abram’s pattern.

Do what Abram did — go deep in your relationship with God.

Get radical: fast and pray for a day, read a little bit of God’s word every day for three weeks, write a blog about the Lord, volunteer at your church, help out at the Gospel mission, teach a Bible study.

Do it.

God’s worth it.

You’ll never regret it.

References:

Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament Vol. 1, by Jon Courson, Thomas Nelson 2005

Bible Gateway

Genesis 15:1-11 Your very great reward

Your Very Great Reward (image courtesy of narrowisthepath.com)

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

Genesis 15:1-11


Abram is spending time with the Lord. He’s experiencing an amazing conversation with the Almighty. The first words out of God’s mouth are:

 “Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

Genesis 15:1

It gives me hope to see that God’s first words to Abram, the father of faith are “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield…” (verse 1)

“Do not be afraid,” God said to Joshua when he began his new job as leader of Israel. (Joshua 1:9)

“Do not be afraid,” the angel said to the shepherds the night that Jesus was born. (Luke 2:10)

“Do not be afraid,” the angel said to a dejected Paul in Acts 27:24.

God knows we have fears. Even Joshua who saw the walls of Jericho fall had fears. Even Paul the great apostle had fears. Even Abram the father of faith had fears.

We all have fears.

God knows this.

Watch what happens next.

Abram fears that his inheritance, the great blessings that he’s received from his God above, will be left to Eliezer of Damascus, the top male servant in his household. This was according to the custom of that time. If a man had no heirs his inheritance would go to his senior ranking male servant.

But even though Abram fears, God reassures. God tells Abram that his fears won’t be realized. He takes Abram outside and together God and Abram look up at the stars. “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” I can only imagine that God said this with a great deal of warmth and with a smile on His face. Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (v. 5)

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (v. 6)

Abram’s fear of losing his inheritance was overcome! Abram’s fear of living a life without children fell away! And not only that, but his belief in God’s words were credited to him as righteousness!

How amazing is that!

But then what happens? God tells Abram that He’s giving him all the land around him, and Abram, the father of faith, who just overcame one fear, moves on to another. (v. 7)

“…how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” Abram asks in verse 8. You can almost hear the whine in his voice. What God does next is incredible. It would seem that a logical reaction to Abram’s questioning attitude might be,

“Hey, I chose you to be the father of faith. But you’re behavior isn’t measuring up. You’re fired! I’m done with you.”

But that’s not who God is.

God is so loving. God is so patient with Abram, and with you, and with me. Instead God says, alright, here’s what we’ll do, I’ll make a covenant with you.

At this time, in this place, a covenant or contract was entered into by splitting an animal in two and sealing the deal by clasping arms while standing in between the two halves of the animal.

So God meets Abram right where he is. You fear I won’t give you this land? You’re familiar with this covenant ritual? Bring back the required animals and prepare them for our covenant.

Abram obeys and sets everything up. And then something very interesting happens.

…birds of prey came down on the carcasses (v. 11)

At first glance this verse seems almost irrelevant. What does this have to do with our story?

Throughout scripture birds represent the enemies of God. Genesis 15:11 is no different. Abram has moved into a place of great intimacy with his Lord. And he is met with resistance from the enemy.

You’ll find that it’s the same for you.

There are birds of prey that seek to thwart any attempt on your part to draw close to your God. But the birds of prey don’t look like birds. They look like the elements of your everyday life.

So what are you and I to do with these birds that look like the elements of our everyday life? What does God’s word say to do? In verse 11 we see that Abram drove them away. And so as Abram did we must also drive them away.

Below you’ll find three categories of birds of prey described, followed by some wisdom to help you drive them away.


1) The birds of prey in your life look like everyday distractions:

These birds look like YouTube videos. They look like Facebook and Farmville. They look like TV and first person shooter games. They look like, dare I say it, shopping.

Though none of the distractions listed are bad in and of themselves, we can, to a large extent, replace our investment in these distractions with greater investment in God. We can replace some YouTube time with time in God’s word. We can replace much of our Facebook and Farmville time with time in prayer. We can replace TV time with time in church. We can replace time shopping with time in service to our God. Invest in God to draw near to God. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:34)


2) Sometimes the birds of prey even look like your family and friends:

A wise man once told me that he wanted to give me a new definition for anger. That new definition, he said, is “violated expectations.” When your new interest in drawing close to your God begins to manifest into investing more of yourself in Him, spending more time in His word, more time and involvement in church, more time in prayer, then some of your friends and family may become uncomfortable because you’re not meeting their expectation of what’s normal for you. In fact, the greater your new found attraction to your God, the stranger some of your friends and family may behave. You may hear them say that “You’ve changed,” or “You’re not the same person you used to be.” They may become moody, even resentful.

When it comes to family and friends, we have to remember that …our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against… …the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) Though friends and family may become uncomfortable with your drawing closer to your God, the birds of prey are not your friends and family. The birds of prey are the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The birds of prey are the enemies of God Himself attempting to influence you away from Him. They’re principalities and powers. They’re not people. They’re invisible.

You must drive them away by showing Christ’s love to the very people the birds of prey are attempting to use to assault God’s kingdom. As Peter instructed the wives who were married to unsaved husbands, we’re to win our family and friends over by our behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2) By showing them God’s love. By praying blessing upon them.

You can learn from experience but it doesn’t have to be your own experience. Learn from the experience of my life and others who have gone before you on this same path. Concerning family and friends, to drive away the birds of prey it’s essential that we recognize the following.

Showing family and friends Christ’s countenance and God’s love is where it’s at!

DEBATE IS FRUITLESS!

Praying for family and friends is where it’s at!

DEBATE IS FRUITLESS!

Did I already mention, DEBATE IS FRUITLESS?

It’s the kindness of God that leads people to Him. (Romans 2:4)

Anytime family and friends show discomfort with you, show them Christ’s love.


3) Finally, the birds of prey may come in the form of your own thoughts and feelings:

When you begin to experience intimacy with God you may have thoughts of awkwardness. Feelings of anxiousness. Feelings of discomfort.

When you begin to draw close to God it’s normal to have thoughts that this direction is too strange or too awkward. Martin Luther once said something that speaks to these negative thoughts and feelings. He said,

“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

It’s the same with your thoughts. Normal thoughts that are negative toward God may enter your mind on occasion but you can choose to think on other things. Positive things. Godly things. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

When it comes to your thoughts, you have a choice.

As you spend time in intimacy with God through prayer, praise, reading His word, serving in church, you’ll find that living out Philippians 4:8 becomes easier and easier.


So back to Abram. Abram, the father of faith, proves himself faithful on two counts:

1) “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6)

2) Abram chased away the birds of prey. (v. 11)

We’ve seen how to chase away the birds of prey, but how can we overcome our fears and believe God as Abram did. The key is in verse 1 where God tells Abram one of the great truths of the universe.

God is your very great reward. (v. 1)

God is your very great reward. (v. 1) The great riches that God blessed Abram with, the descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens, the promised land that God gifted to Abram, all of these, as great as they are, are but tiny in comparison to the gift of God himself.

God is your very great reward, Abram is told. (v. 1) Abram’s belief in God’s word came as a result of this gift. Were it not for the fact that Abram was walking with God, investing in God, and experiencing this time of intimate conversation with God, Abram would not have, could not have overcome his fears and believed.

It’s the same for you and it’s the same for me. If you want to overcome your fears. If you want to believe. If you want to experience faith in God. You have to walk with Him, invest in Him, and enter into intimacy with Him. To overcome fear as Abram did Spend time alone with God as Abram did.

Enter into conversation with Him. Listen to Him — read His word. Share with Him — pray to Him. Pray with your Bible open. Read a verse then pray your answer. Pray to Him then read a verse. Converse with Him.

Intimacy with God. That’s the greatest reward you’ll ever experience. Pursue it with all that you have.

You, God, are my God, 
   earnestly I seek you; 
I thirst for you, 
   my whole being longs for you, 
in a dry and parched land 
   where there is no water.


Psalm 63:1

While in this portion of scripture it’s impossible for me not to share that, regarding Abram in Genesis 15:6, the words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25) This passage of scripture will reward further study. Paul’s explanation of salvation through Jesus Christ is founded on Genesis 15:6 — see Romans 4 and Galatians 5

If you’re reading this post and you haven’t yet entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ you might be interested in learning how. Go to Join Christ’s Family.


References:

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson