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God Is Reliable

“And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.” (Genesis 21:1)

Genesis 21:1 is a remarkable verse of Scripture. Two statements immediately jump out of the text:

“And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.” (emphasis added)

What a profound lesson in God’s reliability! God did exactly what He said He would do. Not only that, He did it at the precise time that He had set (v.2). All the way back in Genesis 13:16 God first made the promise that Abraham would have descendants as numerous as the dust of the Earth. Abraham did not even have one single child at the time, but God made this promise to him as if it was already a done deal (Romans 4:17). Despite Abraham and Sarah’s deception with Pharaoh and Abimilech in which Sarah’s purity could have been compromised (Gen. 12:13, 20:2), despite their scheme to bring about the child of promise from the womb of another (Gen. 16), despite Sarah’s laughter at the very notion that she could bring forth a child in her old age (18:12), God visited Sarah as He had said, and did unto her as He had spoken.

Regardless of how things may look to us, God will make good on every promise that He has ever made. He will do what He has said He will do.  No one is able to frustrate the plans of God, nor can anyone prevent His promises from coming to pass. God is reliable.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published February 12, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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Letting Go Of The Backup Plans

“And it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” (Genesis 20:13)

In Genesis 12:1, God told Abraham to leave the land in which he lived and go to the place that He would show him. We looked at the fact before that Abraham decided to bring Lot, his nephew, along even though God had told him to leave his kindred behind. Now, in Chapter 20, we see another area where Abraham was reluctant to put his entire trust in what God had told him. By his own admission, Abraham had conspired with Sarah to deceive those who lived in the lands wherein God would lead them by telling them that Sarah was merely his sister, not his wife.

“Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.” (Genesis 20:11)

When confronted by the King of Gerar, Abraham offers up these words as his reasoning: I assumed that you were all a bunch of lawless, wicked heathens who would  kill me so you could have my wife. His concern was that a reverence for God was not in that place and that the people of that land would act according to their basest desires. Abimilech did prove to be a man of integrity (v.5-6), but even if he had not been, Abraham was wrong to use deception in order to protect himself. Even if the fear of God had been absent from the hearts of the people of Gerar, God Himself was able to protect Abraham and his wife. God is not dependent on the behavior and actions of others in order to bring His plans to fruition. Even if others are disobedient to the Lord and wish His people harm, this does not make Him unable to protect and defend His own. God may not be honored and respected in the places where we go, but we can be assured that He is in the particular spot where we stand. Even if God’s manifest presence is not already in a place, we know that He is once we arrive, if we have brought Him with us.

Abraham relied on a number of “backup plans” in his walk with God. Without a doubt, this great man of faith trusted God in a way that we can only hope to emulate. Yet we know that his faith grew over time as God stripped away more and more of these backup plans to the point that he had nothing else on which to rely but God Himself. Abraham’s faith in God would reach the point that when his son Isaac asked him as they climbed Mt. Moriah where the lamb was for the sacrifice, his response was: “God will provide Himself a Lamb” (Genesis 22:8). Abraham had attempted to use a backup plan to bring about the birth of a promised son, he had used a backup plan to ensure his safety in the lands through which he traveled, but when it came time to obey the Word of God and offer up his own son, he and Isaac went to the place of sacrifice alone. This incident in Gerar was a turning point in the life of Abraham after which he would trust in God’s provision alone.

And what of our own lives? Is our faith so deeply invested in the providence of God that, should He fail to deliver on His promises, we would have no other recourse? Or have we built a network of our own backup plans on which we rest comfortably should the power of God “fail?” Are we relying on Him or are we relying on our own resources, skills, and ingenuity? If so, we know that God will bring it to the surface, just as He did with Abraham. Will we put our faith in Him or in ourselves?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published February 11, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Abraham In Gerar

“Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. (Genesis 20:2)

I still remember how horrible I felt that night when I was a young Christian, as the preacher related his stories at the close of the sermon. He had been talking about the Lord’s ability to instantly free the believer from sin’s hold on their life. He told us story after story of people who had been in bondage to all sorts of sinful behaviors who, upon coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, were immediately freed from even the faintest yearning for what they had recently been so passionate toward. “That man had smoked for over 30 years”, this preacher proclaimed, “And when he came to Christ, he NEVER had the desire for a cigarette again!” The boisterous “Amens!” and “Hallelujahs!” that filled the sanctuary after these words were spoken led me to believe that maybe I was the only person in the entire congregation who still struggled with sinful desires!

Many of us have heard accounts of people getting saved and being instantaneously delivered from an addiction or sinful desire that they have had most of their lives. I have no doubt that this does sometimes happen (I must confess that I personally have never met such an individual, but I take the stories told to me in good faith), but it seems to me that this is not the normal way that the Spirit of God operates in the lives of His people. The record of Scripture as well as the everyday experiences of those Christians who have confided in me enough to be completely candid about such matters testify to the fact that true holy living is usually something that takes place over time. When we come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the guilt of our sin is immediately wiped away and our position with God is changed in a single instant. But the ability to break some of our stubborn sinful habits is something that only just begins at that point.

I believe that the preacher who talked about those people instantaneously freed from their sinful desires that night was intending to do nothing but glorify the mighty ability of our precious Savior to free those who will put their trust in Him. But it made me seriously wonder why God would do that for some folks while others of us continued to struggle and flounder with the same sins over and over. Many students of God’s Word have been puzzled by the 20th Chapter of Genesis, asking why in the world is it even in the Bible? It looks so much like the events recorded back in Chapter 12, when Abraham and Sarah were in Egypt, and is so similar to what is later described in Genesis 26:6-16, that some scholars have suggested that the three accounts are all based on a single event and that a scribal error explains the redundancy. But when we truly understand mankind’s fleshly nature, there really is no puzzle at all. Honestly, I am glad that this chapter is in the Book of Genesis because it tells us that even Abraham was not beyond repeating the same sin more than once. We may not all have been instantly freed from our sinful desires when we received Salvation, but we are certainly in very distinguished company.

Abraham’s deception of Abimilech in Gerar is recorded right before the conception of Isaac (Genesis 21:2). It was necessary for Abraham to deal with this sin and get it out of his life before he could receive all that God planned for him to have. We may take comfort in the fact that Abraham apparently did not learn from his sin the first time in Egypt; in fact, we see that this ruse was a common practice that he and Sarah engaged in as they traveled about (v.13). But we must also realize that the time came for them to deal with this sin and get it out of their lives before God’s plan for them could go forward. So it is with us. We may struggle with the same sins again and again, and God is merciful to forgive us when we confess them to Him. But until we deal with them and trust in Him to free us from those sins, we will never receive all that He has intended for us.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published February 10, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Lot’s Wife

“But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”  (Genesis 19:26)

I feel that before we move out of Chapter 19 of Genesis and leave behind the incident of God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, we should take a moment to consider the fate of Lot’s wife. Only four people from the entire city of Sodom were led to safety, and only three of those actually made it to safety. Lot’s wife made it out of the city, but she did not make it to the safety of Zoar where her husband and two daughters entered (Genesis 19:23).

We are only told two facts in Genesis 19 about Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt: 1.) The angels sent by God instructed the family “do not look behind you” as they fled from Sodom (v.17) and, 2.) Lot’s wife looked behind her (v. 26). I suppose the very first thing that can be surmised from this is that the instructions of God are to be obeyed implicitly, regardless of how extraneous the details may seem to us. Lot’s wife may have very well wondered what harm could really come from peeking over her shoulder to “watch the fireworks.” But when we consider the Lord Jesus Christ’s own reference to this event, we see something else going on:

“Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (Luke 17:32-33 KJV)

Jesus is speaking in this passage about His Second Coming. He states that His coming in judgment will be as in the day that Lot and his family fled from Sodom (Luke 17:28-30). People will be going about their lives as if there were no God in Heaven and as if the world will go on forever just as it is. But our Lord warns: “In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.” (v. 31 KJV). God’s judgment, though delayed, will come swiftly in the day that God has allotted. His judgment will come so swiftly that there would be no time for hesitation if it were indeed possible to escape it (2 Peter 2:9).

Lot’s wife’s sin was not curiosity, it was unbelief. She wasn’t really interested in leaving Sodom, even as it was being engulfed in flames! As William MacDonald and Arthur Farstad write:

“Although Lot’s wife was taken almost by force out of Sodom, her heart remained in the city. This was indicated by the fact that she turned back. She was out of Sodom, but Sodom was not out of her. As a result, God destroyed her by turning her into a pillar of salt.” (1)

“Whosoever shall seek to save his life” is referring to those whose interests are vested in the things of this world. They have no interest in the things of God, for they have rejected Him. Sure, the faith of their loved ones might get them to come to church, or join a Bible study group, or even become a deacon. But they have no real interest in the things of God. Like Lot’s wife, they might be moving forward toward safety, but their hearts are still firmly rooted in the world. Lot’s wife followed her husband, but his faith in God could only bring her so far. The time comes for everyone when they themselves must make a decision whether they will believe God or not. Lot’s wife decided that she would not.

One final thing for us all to consider is this: The day will come when we shall be called to leave this world, will we be ready? Is our own heart in the place where our precious Savior is taking us to be with Him?  Or have we laid up so much treasure here on Earth that we will be as reluctant as Lot’s wife to leave it all behind (Matt. 6:21)? The day will come for all of us to leave this Earth, will we hesitate so that we may cast a final look at all that we had here, or will we rejoice and count it as no loss at all; our own eyes set firmly on nothing but what lay before us in Christ?

 

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 27,  2010]

(1) MacDonald, William; Farstad, Arthur: Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Lk 17:32

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Lot Was “Sent Out Of The Midst Of The Overthrow”

“Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived. (Genesis 19:29)

Genesis 19:29 summarizes what God has just done in judging Sodom and Gomorrah and what He has done for Lot. God “sent Lot out from the midst of Sodom” before He judged it. What profound truths are carried in that statement! “God sent Lot…” It is God Who is in complete control of this entire process of judging the cities and rescuing Lot. Abraham participated in Lot’s rescue from the armies of Chedorlaomer back in Chapter 14, though God strengthened him and enabled him to do so, this time, Lot is saved entirely by the movement of God alone.

“God sent Lot… ” Life and death is ultimately in the hand of God Almighty, whether we live or die, and it is by His mercy that Lot is spared. God literally cast him out of Sodom and put him in a place of safety. Verses 22-24 make it clear that Lot was completely out of Sodom before judgment began. “God sent Lot out of the midst…” Lot was not living on the outskirts of Sodom, but right in the midst of it, among all of the others. God did not just push him a little to the side so that he could be safe during the judgment, nor did God decide to leave him there during the judgment in order to “test” him. It is worth noticing that God also did not begin to pour out some judgment on the city and then decide that Lot had had enough, taking him to safety after it had begun. Finally, “God sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow.” This was not an ordinary natural disaster that occurred, this was the direct judgment of God upon a sinful people.

I have taken the time to briefly break down the elements of what is said here in Verse 29 because I personally believe that Lot’s rescue from Sodom before its judgment is a picture of the believer’s rescue from this Earth before the Great Tribulation. I do not see this passage as being a conclusive “argument”, so to speak, proving a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the True Church. But I do see the implications as being quite intriguing, to say the least. Obviously, there are some definite distinctions between the judgment on Sodom and God’s final judgments on an unrepentant world, as described in the Book of Revelation. However, they are both judgments directly from the hand of God. They are both instances of God’s wrath being poured out on mankind which has rejected Him. Those who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ are not appointed to receive His wrath (e.g., Romans 5:9, 1 Thessalonians 1:10). So what will happen to those trusting in Christ when the time of His wrath is upon the world?

“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”  (Revelation 3:10)

He will keep us from the very hour (season, time-frame) of the Great Tribulation. The only conceivable way that the Lord Jesus Christ could do this is to remove those who belong to Him before He pours out His judgment. We simply cannot be kept from something if we are still around in the midst of it, can we? The Lord Jesus did say that we would face trials and tribulations in this world (John 16:33), but those are trials and tribulations that come as a result of living in a fallen world. Those trials He shall not keep us from, nor has He ever promised to. But the purpose of His wrath being poured out is to judge those who have rejected Him and, as in the case of the Great Tribulation, to extend mercy to those who will receive Him during that time. There is no purpose in pouring out His wrath on those who have not rejected Him, and we have His promise that He shall not do so. As Lot was, I firmly believe that God will send us out from the midst of this world before He pours out His judgment upon it.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 25, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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