God Running

You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it: 1 Corinthians 12:27

Andrew


Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:27

The house is quiet. A Shrek movie is on TV but Kathy’s not watching because she’s asleep, worn out from a long day. Except for a few items with a “FREE” sign on them, the driveway and front yard of our house are empty and clean. But that’s not what it looked like earlier today. As recently as this afternoon it looked like a large moving van had crashed in our front yard. There were lounge chairs, tables, desks, clothes, a battery powered wheel chair, outdoor furniture, a nearly brand new above ground swimming pool (some assembly required), and a host of other household items strewn about in our front yard. All of these came from people with generous hearts who donated them for a yard sale to help raise money for the medical care of my seven month old grandson Andrew.

Andrew has Bilateral Isolated Frontosphenoidal Craniosynostosis, which is a fancy medical term that means the part of Andrew’s skull behind his eyes and around his left temple isn’t growing as fast as it should. Without surgical intervention the left frontal lobe of his brain won’t have enough room to grow properly. The left frontal lobe is the part of the brain that provides our speech and language function. So no intervention would most likely result in a compromised ability to talk, read, and write.

That’s heart-rending. But there’s good news. Andrew’s family abides in Jesus Christ. And one of the benefits of belonging to Jesus is His body. You see everyone in Christ who’s walking on planet earth makes up the body of Jesus. That’s you, and that’s me. The Lord teaches us in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 that we are the body of Christ. We are His arms and His legs, His eyes and His ears, His feet and His hands. The body of Christ is my neighbor down the street who attends church on the other side of town. The body of Christ is my own church family and is Andrew’s church family. The Lord in his grace and mercy has inspired many to help Andrew and his parents, Gabe and Charise, with the challenges before them. A few weeks ago the church elders requested that they be permitted to anoint Andrew with oil and to pray for his healing, so after Bible study on a Wednesday night we met with the elders and they did just that. They also gave Gabe and Charise a generous financial gift. They’ve also been the largest contributor of yard sale items by far. And many others from Christ’s body also contributed generously. Some have even provided a place for Gabe, Charise, and Andrew to stay during examinations at several children’s hospitals around the Western United States.

You know, this isn’t an isolated incident. Churches and Christians all over the world do this kind of thing all the time. But it’s nearly always done quietly, with humility, so we usually don’t hear about it. But it happens all the time.

In the midst of this difficulty, my family is so blessed that I just had to share it.

God is good.

It’s so good to be a part of the body of Christ.

Lord, thank you — for everything.


1 Corinthians 12:12-30

 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.


References:

Biblegateway

Genesis 21:22-34 What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?

How To Be Happy

Read Genesis 21:22-34

Ripped Off

Abimelek the king of Gerar and his top general Phicol approach Abraham and say to him, We recognize that God is with you in everything you do. So swear to me here before God that you won’t deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants.

It’s no wonder that Abimelek is asking Abraham to swear that he wont’ deal falsely with him. A few years ago Abraham told this same Abimelek that Sarah was his sister. So Abimelek took Sarah into his harem. But God revealed to Abimelek the truth that Sarah is Abraham’s wife. Thus Abimelek narrowly averted sinning against the Lord which, the Lord informed him, would have cost him his life. (See previous post about Abraham and Abimelek)

Abimelek continued, I have treated you well all this time that you’ve resided here in my kingdom as a foreigner. Show to me and my country the same kindness I’ve shown you.

And Abraham responded, “I swear it.”

Then Abraham brings up a sore subject, a delicate matter, a touchy issue with Abimelek. He complains to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized.

Abimelek responds, This is the first I’ve heard of it. You’ve never said anything to me about this before and I don’t know who might have done it.

So Abraham, to demonstrate his commitment to the treaty and to demonstrate his good will toward Abimelek, brings to Abimelek sheep and cattle. So the treaty is solidified. The deal is sealed. It’s done, these two powerful men have entered into the treaty with one another. Then Abraham does something unexpected.

Abraham’s Wisdom and Grace

He sets apart seven lambs from the flock and gives them to Abimelek.

What’s with these? Abimelek asks.

And Abraham replies, These seven lambs are a witness that I dug the well that your servants seized.

Now if Abraham dug the well it was his. So why, after he already gave Abimelek flocks of sheep and cattle, did Abraham give him seven lambs as “a witness” that Abraham dug the well?

Abusive Cop

Yesterday I participated in a class that teaches you how to communicate with people on the street in a way that encourages cooperation and avoids the need for physical force. I heard a story about a new police officer who, on his first day on the job, caught someone speeding. He made a traffic stop that went something like this:

“License and registration please.”

“Listen, I know my rights. I don’t have to give you my license and registration.”

“Sir I need you to step out of the car.”

“Listen you !@#$  %^&*^$!, I’m not doin it! As a tax payer I’m your boss — I pay your !@#$%^&* salary!”

This new cop couldn’t believe it. He checked his uniform, it looked good. He checked his boots, they were shiny. He checked his police cruiser, it looked good, the light bar was on. He checked his badge, it was on right side up.

Why isn’t this guy complying?

Then this brand new cop said, “Sir, step out of the car. I won’t ask you again!

Do you see what happened here? The new cop and the driver of the car are both backed into a corner. Because of the cop’s statement that “I won’t ask you again!” this situation is destined to go sideways. Not surprisingly, the driver of the car didn’t comply. The next thing that happened was that the new cop pulled him through the window, arrested him, and took him down town to HQ. The driver of the vehicle wasn’t given a graceful way out. And as a result things turned ugly.

By the way the new cop’s boss, the Police Chief, called him into his office the next day for what the new cop thought was going to be an atta-boy. Well it didn’t turn out quite the way he expected. He was, to put it gently, directed to find a way to verbally persuade subjects to cooperate.

Wisdom For You And For Me

But what about Abraham? Here he is in this situation where he dug a well, a large investment in that area at that time. His men may have dug who knows how many dry wells before finding this one. And they didn’t have backhoes or drilling rigs in those days. So it’s a huge deal for someone to take over a well as Abimelek’s servants did. So what does Abraham do?

Abraham, the one who took his army of 318 men and rescued Lot from the armies of four kings, Abraham goes after the servants of Abimelek and takes them out, right? Abimelek’s servants seized the well so Abraham mustered his servants and seized it right back, correct?

Nope.

Abraham didn’t fight with Abimelek’s servants. Abraham decided to take a different approach.

You see, I think that Abraham may have recognized that Abimelek was in a tight spot.

It may have been that his servants were telling him, No way, Abraham didn’t dig that well, we did! He’s lying!

So if Abimelek gives the well back to Abraham, Abimelek’s servants might react, You believe that foreigner over us? You, our leader and master, have pulled the rug out from under us! You’re not backing us up!

So instead of fighting Abimelek or insisting on Abimelek giving back control of the well, Abraham provides a graceful way out. He gives Abimelek seven lambs so Abimelek can tell his servants that the well has been purchased. Abraham gets his well back. Abimelek’s servants save face. Abimelek avoids contention within his ranks. And all’s well.

“But that’s not fair!” You might be saying.

“Where’s the justice?” You might be thinking.

“He’s letting Abimelek’s servants off the hook!” You might be protesting.

You know what I’ve learned? Every wise person I know, finds some means of providing a graceful way out for those with whom they have an issue.

And you know what else? It’s not our job to meet out justice anyway. It’s our job to love God and to love people. It’s God’s job to meet out justice.

Didn’t Jesus tell us “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  And If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)

If you’re a Christian, and you’re not a cop, then it’s not your job to come down on people.

Give people you’re in disagreement with a graceful way out. You’ll be happier, people will be more cooperative toward you, and you’ll have healthier relationships.

Abraham was about relationships.

How To Be Happy

The most comprehensive longitudinal study in history is a research project called the Grant Study. In the Grant Study, 268 Harvard graduates (including John F. Kennedy by the way. His file is sealed until 2040) have received regular medical exams, taken psychological tests, returned questionnaires, and sat for interviews for the last 72 years or until they died. The files holding the data are as thick as unabridged dictionaries.

The man who’s been thoroughly analyzing these files for the last 44 years is Dr. George Valliant. Not long ago he was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?”

Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” ( What makes us happy? The Atlantic, June 2009 )

The scriptures confirm that statement.

The Bible is about relationships.

Jesus told us that all the law and all the prophets are summed up in these two statements: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Lord’s whole thing boils down to that. It’s about relationships with people. It’s about your relationship with the person of God and your relationships with other people.

Nothing else matters.

Nothing.

“Love God and do what you will.”

Saint Augustine


Genesis 21:22-34

At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”

Abraham said, “I swear it.”

Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.

After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.


References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Jon Courson

What makes us happy? The Atlantic, June 2009

Image via klaasjan – Creative Commons

Genesis 21:1-21 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6 KJV)

Feed Your Spirit


Read Genesis 21:1-21

Having left Gerar with gifts from king Abimelek, the time has come for Abraham and Sarah that the Lord spoke of a year ago when He said, “I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14) The Lord was gracious to Sarah, as He had said that He would be. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. (v. 2) As God said to Isaiah, “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire…” (Isaiah 55:11) What God says in His word will never return to Him empty. Although His timing seems nearly always to be significantly longer than we would like. In Sarah and Abraham’s case, they waited twenty-five years.

Abraham names the newborn Isaac, which means laughter. Abraham laughed with joy when he received God’s promise of a son in Genesis 17. And unlike her cynical laughter in Genesis 18, Sarah now  responds with joy and laughter at the fulfillment of God’s promise. She says, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” (v. 6)

She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?” (v. 7) Funny — I was thinking the same thing. Abraham one hundred and Sarah ninety, having a child, it’s miraculous. But as the Lord told Abraham and Sarah a year ago, in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the LORD.”

And, in obedience to God’s command, Abraham circumcises his son when he’s eight days old.

Isaac grew and was weaned, some say that Isaac was between three and five years old at this time, and Abraham held a great feast to celebrate the weaning.

What a blessing it is when our children are weaned. When they’re weaned from the need to receive their spiritual nourishment from their parents. My son Gabe and his wife Charise have a six month old baby boy named Andrew who has a rare congenital deformity of the skull called Bilateral Isolated Frontosphenoidal Craniosynostosis. If nothing is done about it, it’s likely that the left frontal lobe of his brain won’t have enough room to grow. So he needs surgery, but the problem is that there aren’t many around who can handle this sort of surgery. This surgery requires that they cut off most of his skull, remove it, reconstruct it, and then suture or staple it back in place. If it’s not done with great precision Andrew could be blinded. Johns Hopkins is looking like they won’t be able to help him. The Mayo Clinic says they’ve never seen this type of craniosynostosis in the twenty-two years they’ve been taking cranio patients. But in spite of all this Gabe and Charise maintain a strong faith in the future that the Lord has planned for Andrew. It’s remarkable to watch their relationship with Christ grow as they pray through this trial. They have been weaned. While it’s heart wrenching to think about the surgery that awaits my grandson, watching Gabe and Charise grow in their faith causes me to want to celebrate.

But at Isaac’s celebration Ishmael, who is around eighteen at this time, mocks Isaac which prompts Sarah to say to her husband, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10)

Now Abraham’s very distraught because he loves his son Ishmael. He’s between the proverbial rock and the hard place. He doesn’t want to hurt Ishmael and Hagar but he doesn’t want to grieve Isaac and Sarah either. Should he listen to Sarah? The last time he listened to Sarah she told him to take Hagar and…

Here we have God’s model for a man when it comes to whether or not he should listen to his wife. God’s model goes like this: you should always listen to your wife. Always. Without fail. Listen every time she speaks. Every time she tells you to do something, listen to what she says.

Then, after listening, ask the Lord if He would have you act on what she’s said!

While you will be amazed at how your wife will respond to you if you can make her feel satisfied that you have listened to her and have understood where she’s coming from, you absolutely must run it by the Lord afterwards. And you can only do what He would have you do and nothing more, regardless of your wife’s wishes. Had Abraham done this when Sarah told him to, “Go sleep with my slave…” he wouldn’t be in this jam! But this time, concerning Sarah’s desire for Ishmael to go, God confirms what Sarah has said.

The Lord says to Abraham, Don’t stress out about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it’s through Isaac that your offspring will be counted, and named.

So the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He sent her and Ishmael on their way in the Desert of Beersheba.

When the water in the skin was gone Hagar put Ishmael under a bush and went a bow shot away to sit down. The New Living Translation calls a bow shot about one hundred yards or about ninety meters. She thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And she sat there and began to sob. (v. 15-18)

But God heard Ishmael crying, and the angel of God told Hagar to take him by the hand and lift him up, for, God said, He will make him into a great nation.

Then Hagar’s eyes were opened by God and she saw a well of water nearby. So she filled the skin and the boy drank and lived.

And the scriptures say that God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. Eventually his mother arranged a marriage for him — she found him a wife from Egypt.


The Flesh and the Spirit:

Paul tells us in Galatians 4 that Hagar and Sarah represent the two different covenants. Hagar represents the covenant from Mount Sinai, that is the covenant based of the law. Hagar the slave woman represents the covenant that enslaves people — to the law.

But Sarah the free woman represents the new covenant, the covenant based on the son of God’s promise. God promised Sarah a son, Isaac. And God promised us His Son Jesus. Sarah the free woman represents the covenant that keeps us free from the law. Those in Jesus Christ are free.

That which is born of the old covenant is of the flesh. The plan to conceive Ishmael was produced from the flesh of Sarah and Abraham without consulting the Most High. The plan to conceive Isaac was produced from God’s Spirit. (Galatians 4:21-27)

Interestingly Paul continues in Galatians 4 pointing out that even as the son born according to the flesh, persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit, it’s the same today. Today those born of the flesh mock and persecute those born of the Spirit. (Galatians 28-31)

So what are we to do about it?

The Lord makes it as clear as can be when He says that “…he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8 NKJV)

When we sow of the flesh, there’s a price to pay. It’s as though you have inside you a black dog and a white dog. The black dog is your flesh and the white dog is Christ’s Spirit within you. When you feed your flesh the black dog grows larger and stronger and meaner. He can begin to dominate the white dog. Giving attention to, nurturing, and nourishing the black dog will result in changes in your life. Sin awaits.

My pastor tells of a law enforcement officer in Southern California who asked him to share his story. He has a beautiful family and he had a beautiful marriage up until recently. While spending time on Facebook he encountered an old high school flame who had relocated to Colorado. They shared back and forth via Facebook for a while until she commented that she would be out in his area on business. They decided to meet for a cup of coffee to catch up. Then they decided to meet again. Eventually they began an affair. Awhile more and the old flame decided that she wanted a divorce. She told her husband in Colorado of her relationship with her old Southern California high school classmate. He committed suicide.

Now she wants to make the relationship with the law enforcement officer permanent.

He who sows to his flesh…

But, there’s good news. You have a choice, you can feed the white dog. As you partake of God’s word, as you attend church, as you pray for direction, you’re giving attention to, nurturing, and nourishing the white dog. He’ll grow larger and stronger. Your love for God will grow. Your love for others will grow. And the black dog will become weak and small.

I’m not talking about working your way to heaven. God is faithful even when we’re faithless. With Christ as your savior you’re going to go to heaven regardless. But 1 Corinthians 3 tells us that though we may get to heaven, by living for our flesh we can suffer loss. God’s word tells us that those in Christ who live for their flesh will still be saved but as one escaping through the flames. Upon your arrival into the afterlife those things born of the flesh will be revealed with fire as well as those things in your life that are born of the Spirit. On that day, I guarantee you, you’ll be wishing you had more fruit of the Spirit and less fruit of the flesh.

So for today, just for today, for just one day, feed your Spirit. Live your life for Christ.

You’ll never regret it.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15


Genesis 21:1-21 

Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.

 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.


References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Ray Stedman

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson


Genesis 20 — But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die

Mercy and Grace — courtesy of kevinstilley.com

Read Genesis 20

The last we saw Abraham, he was in the place where he had stood before the Lord. He was standing on the promontory overlooking Sodom and Gomorrah. The valley was smoking, with dense smoke like smoke from a furnace, the Bible says. They were utterly and completely destroyed. God is to be feared for His judgement is perfect, and also thorough. (Genesis 19:28)

Now we see Abraham on the move again. He heads South to the Negev and while in the region of the Negev, he spends some time in Gerar, a Philistine city South of the Gaza Strip on Israel’s West coast. It’s here in Gerar where we see Abraham make the same mistake a second time. As he did in Egypt, Abraham feared that the king would become taken with his wife Sarah’s great beauty and kill him to get him out of the way, that the king might take Sarah into his harem. So Abraham describes her to the people of Gerar as his sister. And Sarah describes Abraham to the people of Gerar as her brother. A half truth because although Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Sarah and Abraham also had the same father but did not share the same mother. So Abraham’s telling a half truth about his half sister. His motivation to do so was fear — the fear of man. Abraham tried to speculate on what was going on in the king’s head. He assumed that king Abimelek would kill him so he could have Sarah for himself. A suspicion of evil in others is often the little bit of leaven that leads to the pollution of the whole loaf. That is to say that suspicion of evil in others is often the seed that sprouts and grows into more sin. There’s great wisdom in being charitable towards others, in giving others the benefit of the doubt. For more on the trap of the fear of man and speculating on people’s motives see the previous post on Genesis 12:10-20.

Predictably, king Abimelek sends for Sarah and takes her for himself. Things look desperate. Sarah’s gone from the family and has become a part of the king’s harem. How low Abraham must have been feeling at that moment. He’s lost his beautiful wife because of his cowardly behavior. However the next two words, as they so often do, bring hope and light to the situation. The next two words are “But God…” (v. 3)

But God came to Abimelek in a dream… and said to him, “You are as good as dead…” God comes to Abimelek and lays the whole thing out. You, Abimelek, are as good as dead! Because Sarah is a married woman. Notice here that Abraham’s sin has opened up Abimelek to sin. As Matthew Henry says, “The sin of one often occasions the sin of others; he that breaks the hedge of God’s commandments opens a gap to he knows not how many; the beginning of sin is as the letting forth of water.”

Abimelek, who hadn’t yet gotten anywhere near Sarah,  pleads his case and says, Lord, I’m innocent, and the kingdom of Gerar is innocent. Abraham told us that she’s his sister, and she told us that he’s her brother. My actions were based on the best information that I had at the time. What more can I do?

God replies, Yes, I know, that’s why I kept you from her, that’s why I didn’t let you touch her.

God prevents Abimelek from sinning, He also prevents Abraham from suffering from sin, and He prevents Sarah from both. People sometimes pose the question, “How could a loving God allow evil and suffering?” The answer is that, yes, it’s true, since Adam, the world is in a fallen state, and with the fall came evil and suffering. But as we see here, things aren’t as bad as hell and evil men would have them, because of God’s intervention. The Lord in His mercy prevents greater sin and suffering. Sin and suffering don’t come from the Lord. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

Now return her to Abraham, for he’s a prophet of mine, and he’ll pray for you and you’ll live, God continues. But, if you don’t return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die. (v. 7)

Early the next morning Abimelek calls a big meeting of all his officials and when he tells them about his dream they freak. With his whole administration afraid because of what’s happened, it’s obvious to Abimelek what he has to do next.

Abimelek summons Abraham to return Sarah to him. But first he chastises Abraham, he says, What is the deal? What did I ever do to you that you would bring this guilt upon me and my kingdom? Notice here that Abimelek recognizes that his actions have consequences for his kingdom. This is a good reminder to you. You’re example to your people is one of the most powerful dimensions of your leadership. The sin of the leader often results in the suffering of those who follow him. And the integrity of the leader averts disaster and results in blessings. (Traveler and the Chaplain, Matthew Henry)

Abimelek continues, You’ve done things to me that should never be done! What were you thinking?

Abraham replies, I was thinking that there’s no fear of God in this place, and that you would kill me to get me out of the way so you could take my trophy wife from me. Oh, and by the way, she really is my sister you know. We both have the same father but different mothers. When God told me to travel from my father’s household, I figured that I better have a plan to deal with kings like you who might want to kill me for my wife. So I concocted this plan for Sarah to say that she’s my sister.

Then Abimelek did the same thing that Pharaoh did when he found himself in this situation, he gave Sarah back to Abraham and he gave him sheep, and cattle, and male slaves, and female slaves. And he gave Abraham 1,000 shekels of silver (around 25 lbs. or 12 kilos). Interestingly, when Abimelek does so he says to Sarah, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver,” (emphasis mine) reminding Sarah and Abraham that they deceived him by withholding that Abraham is Sarah’s husband. (v. 16)

And finally, Abimelek told Abraham to live wherever he wanted in the kingdom of Gerar.

All of these blessings were given to Abraham, not because Abimelek was impressed with Abraham, but rather, because Abimelek was impressed with Abraham’s God.

Now while Abimelek held Sarah, God had caused all the women in Abimelek’s household to become barren. So after the king returned Sarah to Abraham, Abraham prayed to the Lord and He healed all the women so they could have children again.

This brings us to the end of Genesis chapter 20.

God’s Digital Red One Camera:

My son Nathaniel has made a couple of independent films. He shot his first one on regular film but for his second movie, he used an amazing digital camera called the Red One.

What a difference. When he used regular film there was no easy way to take bad scenes and delete them from the reel of raw footage. All of the lousy scenes, all of the scenes that he and his team wished they could do over, may not have made it into the final version of the movie, but they remained on a reel of raw footage, in a canister, preserved there, forever.

But with the Red One camera, Nate and his team could, with relative speed and ease, delete scenes that they no longer wanted around.

Do you ever wish that you could delete scenes from your life? Do you ever wish that you could go back in time and do life over?

Of course you do! We all do. We all have regrets over the way we’ve handled different situations in life. No doubt Abraham did after lying to Pharaoh and then blowing it again with Abimelek. After making his wife vulnerable that way in order to preserve his own skin — twice.

I am so glad that I’m not God. If I were God, at this point in Abraham’s life, I’d be saying to him, “Are you kidding me?!? Didn’t we go through this same deal with Pharaoh, just a few chapters ago? What part of honoring Me through integrity and honesty don’t you understand? I was going to hold you up as the father of faith, but no more. From now on you’ll be known as the coward who hid behind his wife’s skirt. You blew it Abraham.”

But thankfully, I’m not God. And mercifully, God didn’t respond that way.

Instead God protected Sarah from Abimelek. Instead God protected Abraham from Abimelek and the army of his kingdom. Instead God blessed Abraham with favor from the king of Gerar.

Instead, in spite of Abraham’s sin, God calls him His prophet — Genesis 20, verse 7 is the first time in the Bible that the word prophet is used. Talk about grace, after Abraham lies and behaves in this milk-livered manner, God in His grace and mercy, identifies Abraham as His prophet, He tells Abimelek that Abraham belongs to Him.

Instead, and again in spite of Abraham’s sin, God uses him to heal Abimelek’s household through Abraham’s prayer.

Instead, God even calls Abraham the father of faith in Galatians 3.

And now, for you and for me, God, who’s perfect memory films, if you will, every moment of your life, and every moment of mine, the One who records even every thought in your mind, He is using the Red One camera.

Do you have some scenes in your life that you want to delete? Do you want a chance to start over? I have great news. God has provided a way. He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins. He sent his Son to erase from God’s perfect memory your sins and mine.

Want to start your life over again? Jesus said you can be born again. (John 3:1-17)

Want to delete some scenes from your life? Enter into the new covenant with Jesus Christ and the Lord will forgive you and delete your sins from His memory. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

In spite of Abraham’s sin, in spite of the fact that Abraham is committing the same sin for the second time, God is abundantly merciful and gracious to Abraham. And just think, this is before the new covenant! Just think how much more merciful and gracious God will be toward you and toward me now that Christ has died on our behalf. Now that Christ has torn the curtain of the temple in two from top to bottom.  (Mark 15:38) Now that the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

You can start over. You can have the sin in your life erased from God’s memory.

Accept Jesus Christ as your savior.

Take hope in the words of Jesus:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17

See So Your Life Is Falling Apart .


Genesis 20:

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”

Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”

Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”

Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”

To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”

Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, for the LORD had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.


References:

Traveler and the Chaplain – A Christian Parable

Bible Gateway

Ben Courson

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson


Both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father–Genesis 19:30-38

Lukewarm Christian

Revelation 3:16

Read Genesis 19:30-38

In verse thirty we read that Lot became afraid to stay in the little town of Zoar. Perhaps he thought that because Zoar was in the plain it would meet the same demise as Sodom and Gomorrah. Or perhaps he found Zoar to be just as debauch as Sodom. Or perhaps he simply came to the realization that he had insisted upon his own plan instead of following the instruction given him by God’s messengers, which is always a losing proposition. Whatever the reason, Lot took his daughters out of Zoar and took up residence in a cave in the mountains.

In 1 Kings, another one of God’s men found himself in a cave. After Elijah had called down fire from heaven, after Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal, in fear for his life he fled from Jezebel to a cave in the side of a mountain. Elijah found himself in the cave of depression.

When the Lord asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?”

Elijah responded, “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left…”

The Lord answered by letting Elijah know how far from reality he was. God said, in effect, Hey, you’re not the only one left. There are still 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. So snap out of it. I have things for you to do. (1 Kings 19)

In Lot’s cave his two daughters decide that Lot is the only man left on earth with whom they might have sex with to carry on their family name.

Both Elijah and Lot’s family were dwelling in the cave of depression where reality becomes distorted. In Elijah’s case, Elijah wasn’t the only one left. In Lot’s daughter’s case, Lot wasn’t the only man left. It’s helpful to remember that when you’re in the cave of depression, everything seems 7,000 times worse than it really is.

So Lot’s daughters, so accustomed to the lascivious culture of Sodom, so polluted by the culture they grew up in, decide that their only hope for having a family is to engage their father in an incestuous relationship. They concoct a plan to make Lot drunk with wine and then to have sex with him while he’s so out of it that he doesn’t know what’s happening.

Eldest daughter enacts the plan the first night.

Youngest daughter takes the next night.

And they both become pregnant.

Here we see again the influence of Sodom on Lot and his family. Lot becomes drunk. Lot’s daughters, rather than seeking the Lord for a solution to their problem, come up with their own plan involving incest. And the result is that the eldest daughter gave birth to Moab, Lot’s son and grandson simultaneously, and the father of the Moabites. And Lot’s second daughter gave birth to Ben-Ammi, father of the Ammonites. Of course both the Moabites and the Ammonites would become enemies of Israel making war against them and killing Israelis. The wages of sin is death, literal physical death, in this case.

Incest is an obvious sin, as is drunkenness. But there’s another mistake that Lot made here in chapter 19. One that’s easily overlooked. Lot, there in his cave on the side of the mountain, living in relative isolation, allowed himself to fall asleep, so to speak. With the influences of Sodom no longer around him, Lot fell into perhaps the most subtle and dangerous trap that a believer can fall into. Lot became sleepy, he lost his edge, he lost his spark, he let his guard down. Lot relaxed.

In Acts chapter twenty we find the story of a young man named Eutychus who was listening to the Apostle Paul teach late into the night. The young man was seated on the sill of a third story window. As the night wore on he became sleepier and sleepier until finally, he fell completely asleep and fell out of the window, plummeting to the ground from three stories up.

Falling asleep is so easy to do for you and for me in today’s culture. If you think about it, even those of us with modest means live much better today than did the kings and queens throughout most of human history. We have air conditioning, and central heat, and grocery stores, and fast food, and two hundred channels, and a thousand news outlets, and video games, and e-books, and the list goes on and on. The creature comforts we have today are amazing. There has never been a time in history when so many were so comfortable. We’re far more comfortable than Eutychus was while he was sitting on that window sill.

And that’s the problem, like Lot when we’re comfortable we’re prone to drift off course.

Church?

“Not this morning, the game’s on TV.”

“I’m supposed to play a video game with a friend I met online.”

“We’re going out to eat later.”

“I just need to stay home and relax. I just need to sleep in.”

It’s so easy to get sleepy. Perhaps easier today than at any other time in history. And when you get sleepy bad things happen. You fall out of the third story window, or you fall into sin as Lot did, or you become a body at rest that tends to remain at rest. You become a lukewarm Christian, filling your life with secular things, comfortable things, things that cause you to drift away from your Lord.

I remember a time when I felt completely in my comfort zone. Things were going well at work, I was playing basketball and golf on my days off. I spent quite a bit of time playing video games and watching TV.

“So what’s the problem?” You might be saying.

“There’s no sin in that,” you might be thinking.

Nothing that I was doing was a problem or sinful in and of itself. The problem was that I wasn’t engaged in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I was living for pleasure. Other than a short prayer in the morning when I woke up, I wasn’t doing anything that would draw me closer to Him! I was on cruise control and asleep at the wheel. I was having zero influence on anyone for God’s kingdom. Nada. Nothing. I wasn’t praying for people. I wasn’t praying for the Holy Spirit and consequently I didn’t have much in the way of love for others. I was lukewarm. All Christians have their ups and downs but I believe that had I continued that way, I would have crashed and burned, eventually. During that time in my life I was the one who Jesus said in Revelation 3:16-19 He would spit out of His mouth.

If you, dear reader, are in such a comfortable place, please, wake up! Don’t remain lukewarm. Don’t risk getting spit out. It’s not too late. After Eutychus fell three stories, Paul ran to him, embraced him, and revived him.

Run to Christ, run to church, run to your Bible, run to your prayer closet and ask God to do whatever it takes to make your relationship with Him everything He wants it to be!

He loves you. Leave the comfortable sleepy place you’re in and go to Him because of Jesus’ words:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Matthew 16:25-26


Genesis 19:30-38:

Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.


[Image via Linda N – Creative Commons]

References:

Bible Gateway

Ben Courson

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson

Genesis 19:1-29 Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!

Jesus said, “Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:32) (Photo courtesy of devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com)


Read Genesis 19:1-29

Verse 1: The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.

The two angels who we saw in our last couple of posts departed from the Lord and from Abraham and made their way to Sodom where they found Lot sitting in the gateway of the city. Keep in mind that these angels have no distinguishing physical characteristics that would indicate that they’re angels. No wings, no glow, no halo. As it was with Abraham, for all Lot knows, they’re just a couple of travelers.

In our story Lot begins well. He says to the two angels, Stay at my place tonight. You can wash up, spend the night in a comfortable bed. Then tomorrow you can be on your way. After some conversation that might be typical of a situation like this one: “Oh I wouldn’t dream of it.” And, “Please, I insist.” And, “I won’t take no for an answer.” They wind up at Lot’s house where Lot feeds them.

But before they go to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. All the men! The whole town comes out and surrounds Lot’s house. Can you imagine? Close your eyes and imagine your house in the middle of the night surrounded by all the men in your town. God help Lot! These men began making demands. They hollered at Lot for him to let out the two travelers so they could sexually abuse them. The Bible is very specific about what they demanded. They said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

So Lot tries to appease them. He opens his front door, slithers through, and then quickly shuts the door behind him, the crowd pressing him, wanting to break through the door. Lot says to the crowd, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

In his desperation, Lot offers his daughters to the mob. That’s so appalling!

And also ineffective besides. Because the mob says, This outsider comes into our town and is now judging us! Who are you to judge? We’ll do to you worse than what we intended to do to them.

But the travelers weren’t ordinary travelers. They were angels. They reached out and quickly pulled Lot back into the house. Then, in the first revelation to Lot of their true nature, they struck the entire mob with blindness.

Then the two asked Lot, Do you have any people here, family, sons-in-law, sons, daughters, anyone? Get them out of here because we’re going to destroy this place. The outcry of the Lord against it is so great that He has sent us to destroy it.

So Lot sneaks out of his house, past that blinded mob, and finds his sons-in law. He warns them. He pleads with them to “Hurry and get out because the Lord is about to destroy the city!”

But his sons-in-law don’t heed his wisdom. They respond, What’s the big deal? Your view on this issue is a joke. They decide to risk staying in the city. Lot, through God’s grace, is being delivered out of sinful Sodom, and therefore it’s his duty to do what he can for the deliverance of others, especially his relations. You and I are, by God’s grace, delivered from our sin, and even as Lot did what he could to help deliver others, you and I must do what we can to bring others to Christ, especially our relations, that they too are delivered from their sin.

As dawn approached the angels are now becoming agitated and behaving more urgently. Take your wife and daughters, they say, or you’ll be wiped out when the city is destroyed!

And here Lot wavers. He hesitates. So, in God’s mercy verse 16 says, the angels take the matter into their own hands and grab Lot, Lot’s wife, and Lot’s daughters and they lead them quickly out of the city. In a way, this is a picture of salvation. Lot, who’s called a righteous man in 2 Peter 2:7, isn’t saved from the sinful city by his own actions but by God’s grace. And you and I are the same. We don’t come to Christ on our own merit, but it’s by God’s grace we’re saved.

As soon as they’re clear of the city one of the angels instructs Lot to flee further away, to get out of the plain to the mountains. And he also instructs them not to look back. These warnings also speak of our salvation. We’re to remain clear of sin, for that’s the same as looking back at Sodom. We’re to lean not on ourselves or the world, for that’s the same as remaining in the plain. And we’re to go to Mount Calvary, the place where our savior died for our sins, as Lot was to go to the mountains.

Lot, begs and pleads with them, No! Not the mountains, please let us run over to that little town over there. It’s a town sure but it’s a small town.

The angels respond, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.”

So Lot, Lot’s wife, and Lot’s daughters flee to Zoar. By the time they got there the sun was high over head. Then the Lord rained down burning debri on Sodom and Gomorrah. He destroyed the cities and all the surrounding vegetation. But He preserved Lot and Lot’s daughters. And He preserved Lot’s wife, until she turned around and looked back. Whatever supernatural destruction that God rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah had the effect of destroying anyone who looked upon it. Filled with longing for her old life, Lot’s wife disobeyed the instructions from the angels. She looked back and she perished. (Luke 17:32)

The next morning Abraham returns to the place where he stood before the Lord. He looks down upon the plain at Sodom or Gomorrah and he sees that the cities are destroyed,  a dense column of smoke rising from the land. Today many archaeologists believe that the ruins of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah lie at the bottom of the Dead Sea. In fact the locals don’t call it the Dead Sea but for centuries have called it the Sea of Lot. Check out the satellite view of the Dead Sea on Google Maps:

. Not a lot of green to be found there.


Lot in Sodom and Sodom in Lot:

There’s something in this passage of scripture that’s so important, I can’t end the post without addressing it. At the beginning of our story, the two travelers find Lot sitting in the gateway of the city. In that time, in that culture, when a man sat in the gateway of the city it meant he was a part of the leadership of that City. The gateway of the city is where the leadership met to make policy decisions or to hold hearings. It was sort of like a city council chambers and a municipal court combined. The fact that Lot was seated there means he served as the mayor or perhaps as a councilman — he was a part of the leadership of the city of Sodom.

That’s interesting because when Lot first decided he wanted to dwell in the region of Sodom he began by first looking at Sodom. Then pitching his tent toward Sodom, he began to orient himself and his family toward the city so to speak. The New International Version says, he pitched his tent near Sodom. Then later, during the time when Abraham rescued Lot from the invasion of the five kings, we saw that Lot had moved into the city and was dwelling in a house there. (Genesis 14)

Now we see Lot has become further engaged in the culture of Sodom. He’s a part of their leadership. No doubt, with good intentions, wanting to influence the culture of the city for God’s kingdom.

That’s a noble cause. The question is though, how much of Lot’s influence found its way into Sodom, and how much of Sodom’s influence found its way into Lot?

Let’s have a look at how much success Lot had influencing Sodom. Verse four tells us that all the men in the city surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that Lot allow them to sexually abuse his guests. “All the men,” apparently not one was influenced by Lot for God’s kingdom. And when Lot addressed the mob to influence them to leave his guests alone, they responded by telling him they’d do worse to Lot than they would to his guests!

When Lot approached his sons-in-law to warn them to leave the city they thought he was a joke! They didn’t respect his warning. They disregarded his counsel, wise though it was.

In our story, Lot’s influence on Sodom never materializes. We don’t see converts. We don’t see people following Lot out of Sodom.

And how much was Lot influenced by Sodom? To Lot’s credit he took in the two strangers and even tried to protect them from the angry crowd. But he did so by offering his daughters! The value he assigned to his daughters’ purity and safety was apparently eroded away, influenced by the culture of Sodom. He had such a disregard for his daughters sexual purity that he offered them to the mob outside his house. “Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them,” he said.

And Lot’s wife, she was also influenced by Sodom. She longed for her old life there. She longed for the familiar culture there in Sodom. And as a result she perished. Lot’s family was influenced by Sodom to the point of death, at least for Mrs. Lot.

We also see Lot’s hesitation to obey the instruction that he received from God’s messengers to escape the city. Then he argues with the angels when they direct him to flee to the mountains. He pleads with them to go to the little town of Zoar instead.

Later in this chapter we’ll see Lot become entangled in incest.

How much of Sodom was in Lot? Too much.

Where are you at in relation to the culture you live in? How much of your godly influence is finding its way into the culture around you and how much of the culture around you is finding its way into you?

There’s a great truth to be learned from Lot’s story. I hear people say they want to hit the bars so they can influence people for Christ. I hear people say they want to go to the big party because they want to shed a light in a dark place. I hear people say they want to live in a certain city because that city needs God’s influence. But more often than not, they’re like Lot. They’re walking into a situation where they’ll be influenced, more than they will influence others for Christ.

When’s the last time you sought the Lord in prayer on behalf of others? When’s the last time you took someone to church? When’s the last time you shared something from the scriptures with a friend?

When’s the last time you saw evidence that someone in your circle was influenced by you, for Christ?

And what of our culture’s influence on you? When’s the last time you’ve been to church yourself?

“Yea but most of my friends don’t go to church.” You’ve been pulled away! Influenced away from your Father who wants to enjoy intimate fellowship with you. Go to church and influence your friends to go with you!

How much time are you spending in God’s word?

“Yea but I found this scripture that I don’t think could be true.” You’ve been distracted from your relationship with the One who loves you so much He died for you. Don’t let that one scripture distract you. Even the most godly have moments of doubt. Spend time in God’s word–daily.

When’s the last time you took in music that edifies God?

“Yea but secular music is so much better, that’s what me and all my friends listen to.” I’m not saying you should avoid all secular music. I’m just saying you have been drawn into the world and away from that which will draw you closer to Him. Be wise and take in that which will inspire you for Jesus Christ.

Jesus said of God’s scriptures, “…until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear…” (Matthew 5:18) Trends in culture over the last couple of millenia have come and gone and come back again. But the newest writings of the Bible are  2,000 years old yet remain true and timeless.

It’s alarming but true never the less that Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father…” (Matthew 7:21)

On that day I guarantee you, you won’t care about one single cultural trend. You won’t care about what your friends are doing. You’ll only care about Jesus’ opinion. You’ll only care about hearing the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Your faith must become your own. Make changes. Make changes now. Martin Luther said it well when he proclaimed, “How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” Start today. Draw near to God.

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

James 4:8


Genesis 19:1-29

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.)

By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.


References:

Bible Gateway

Ben Courson

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson


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 receive 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.

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 16:7-16 The angel of the LORD found Hagar

Read Genesis 16:7-16

I was just six years old and it was the first day of school. My mother put me on the bus and I rode in with my fellow students to our elementary school on Laramie Avenue in Midlothian, Illinois, almost one mile from my house.

To this day I’m not sure what got into me, but just a few minutes after arriving, I decided to run away from school. I walked North on Laramie Avenue to 149th Street, turned right, and walked down 149th all the way to South Cicero Avenue which was and is to this day a dangerous four lane highway with heavy traffic and no crosswalk at the intersection. But in spite of all that I somehow managed to cross South Cicero and continued to South Kenton Avenue where I turned again and walked to my house.

I ran away from school.

Boy, was mom surprised to see me!

The first thing she thought about of course was me, a six year old, by myself, crossing South Cicero Avenue.

I didn’t want to be at school but God had other plans for me. My mother took me back and made it clear that I would be going to school, whether I felt like it or not.

So I obeyed, returned, and submitted.

In this post we’ll take a look at the story of Hagar and how she ran away, but first let’s set the scene.

In the last post we saw that Sarai fell prey to disbelief and decided to take matters into her own hands. Feeling that God wasn’t coming through on His promise to bless Abram with a multitude of descendants, Sarai decided to go with a plan that was not uncommon among barren women of Babylon and Ur at that time, she decided to offer up her handmaiden, her slave, Hagar, to Abram with the idea that she could build a family through her.

Abram, to his discredit, agreed, and Hagar became pregnant. Before Hagar was given to Abram to be his wife, Sarai held all the cards. Sarai was Hagar’s master or mistress, Hagar had nothing but her service to Sarai if she wanted to eat. After Sarai gave Hagar to Abram she, Hagar, was elevated in status, in that she was now one of Abram’s wives and she was now with Abram’s child to boot. Compound that with the infusion of hormones that my wife and daughters tell me women experience while they’re pregnant and boom — Hagar’s attitude took a dive and she despised her mistress Sarai.

The drama meter gets ramped up even more as Sarai responds to Hagar’s change in attitude by blaming Abram for the new found family strife, even though it was Sarai’s idea for Abram to take Hagar in the first place.

Abram throws up his hands, so to speak, and tells Sarai, hey, she’s your slave, do whatever you like with her.

At that point Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar, so Hagar flees the scene and that’s where we pick up our story today.

Deep breath! I’m amazed at all the drama. Someone should make a movie about this passage of scripture.

So when Hagar flees she finds herself near a spring in the desert that is beside the road to Shur. It’s interesting that the name Shur essentially means a point of observation. As Matthew Henry says, “God brings us into a wilderness, and there meets us.” (Hosea 2:14) He observes from His elevated perspective as we stray off the path He has in mind for us. He very often allows the issue to ripen before He reveals Himself to us. He knows when and where we’re most likely to respond to Him. So it was with Hagar.

So the angel of the Lord engages Hagar near the spring in the desert that’s beside the road to Shur. It’s here that we see the first mention in the Bible of the angel of the Lord. This angel of the Lord is unique in that throughout scripture all other angels steadfastly refuse to be worshiped whenever a man or a woman attempts to do so. But that’s not the case with the angel of the Lord. His acceptance of worship is an obvious indication that He is deity. I believe that the angel of the Lord is, most likely, the name used in the Old Testament for the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.

And look who He appears to first, a slave woman who has run away from her master. Jesus, the one with a heart to leave the ninety-nine to rescue the one, finds one lonely slave woman alone in the desert, in rebellion, and, as we’ll soon see, He gently guides her back on course.

The angel of the Lord starts his encounter with Hagar by leading her to humility. He doesn’t address her with the words, “Hagar, wife of Abram,” or “Hagar, mother of Abram’s child,” but, rather, He gently humbles Hagar by addressing her as Hagar, slave of Sarai. (v.8)

Then He asks her, “…where have you come from, and where are you going?” (v.8)

Hagar answers, “I’m running away from my mistress.” (v.8)

The angel of the Lord provides her with instruction, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” (v.9)

I suppose I’m like most people in the way that I struggle with this scripture. If I’m not being treated well by someone in authority over me, I do not want to submit. But God tells us that rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. (Romans 13:3-4)

The angel of the Lord, knowing that she would obey, blesses Hagar, telling her, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” (v.10)

He prophecies that Hagar will give birth to a son and instructs her to name him Ishmael.

The angel of the Lord further prophecies that Ishmael will be a “wild donkey of a man;” and that “…his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (v.11-12)

Of course these prophecies have come to pass. Ishmael’s descendants are the people of the Arab nations who are very numerous.

Sadly, the second part of the prophecy has also come to pass. The descendants of Ishmael, the Arab nations, are in constant conflict with each other and others. Ishmael’s descendants are particularly hostile toward Ishmael’s brother Israel. The Palestinians have a public agenda to wipe Israel off the map. In fact in their education curriculum, their maps don’t even include the nation of Israel, so, from a very young age, Palestinian children are indoctrinated with the idea that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist. And Palestine is supported by all the Arab nations of the Middle East.

Hostile against his brother Israel, indeed he is.

Hagar, even though she’s been directed to return to her mistress and submit, even though she’s received prophetic promises of blessing but also of hostility and strife, Hagar responds to the angel of the Lord with gratitude.

Hagar recognizes that God saw her in her trial and drew near to her. She says, “You are the God who sees me,” and she names a nearby well Beer Lahai Roi which means, well of the living one seeing me. (v.13-14)

Hagar ran but in the end she obeyed, returned, and submitted. She bore Abram’s son and Abram named him Ishmael in accordance with God’s command.

There are all kinds of ways to run. Hagar ran away to a different geographical location. Sometimes people run from their marriage problems to another lover. Others run from their problems to alcohol or drugs. Some run from their financial responsibilities by borrowing money. There’s even a thing called displacement activity where people run from their problems by focusing their time and energy on some benign hobby or activity instead of working on solving their problems.

You may have noticed that Charlie Sheen has been in the news quite a bit in the last eight or nine months or so. He’s trying to run. He’s run from his marriages to other women. He’s run from his problems to drugs and alcohol. He’s said that he’s different and that he can handle a life of running. “I have a different constitution,” Charlie has said. “I have a different brain; I have a different heart; I got tiger blood, man.”

Sadly, I think poor Charlie’s on a course with a big day of reckoning.

Perhaps you’re in a situation where you’re tempted to run: toward some benign but unconstructive activity, or toward alcohol and drugs, or toward divorce, or toward a different physical location like Hagar.

Perhaps this is a word from the Lord for you.

Sarai and Abram just went with their plan without seeking the Lord, without praying to the Lord. Hagar just split from Sarai without seeking the Lord. Prayer is so important. It’s not a matter of what to pray about because God’s word says to pray without ceasing so we’re to pray about everything. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) It’s only a matter of how much prayer we should devote to a given decision or issue.

If you’re in a situation where you feel tempted to run, pray! Pray through your problem. Pray through it. See what God would have you do.

Don’t be surprised if, like Hagar, God wants you to obey Him, return, and submit.

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

The angel of the LORD also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Genesis 16:7-16

References:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

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