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El Shaddai

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God {El Shaddai}; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” (Genesis 17:1 KJV)

What a great contrast we have between the events of Chapters 16 and 17. Chapter 16 was all about the plans and schemes of Sarah and Abraham. Now, in Chapter 17, God tells Abraham what HE is going to do. Is this not the pattern that God so often lets unfold in our own lives? God tells us what He wants to do, we nod our heads in agreement — all the while thinking of what actions we ourselves shall perform in order that these things might come to pass. We “believe” God, yet we set about busying ourselves that we might validate His promise through our own actions. The Lord then patiently allows us to try things our own way and when we have come to the end of ourselves, after we have exhausted all of our own efforts and attempted all of our own methods, He graciously returns to meet us; fallen on our own faces (v. 3) and listening to His Words with an attentiveness and submission that only comes from the soul which knows its own limitations.

That the Lord is not given to the false sense of urgency which grips the impatient heart of man is punctuated by the span of time which stands silently between Genesis 16:16 and 17:1. Sarah and Abraham had felt that a decade was sufficient time to wait for God to make good His promise before taking up the cause themselves (16:3). Yet another 13 years transpire between these two chapters without so much as a single syllable of reassurance emitting from the mouth of God. There are times when we feel that the wait has been long enough and the season of our own comfort must surely be at hand, but the perfect timing of our Lord has yet to be realized; indeed, our wait has only just begun. When we become aware that it makes no difference what the duration is, that we have a God Who is never late nor early, then we learn what Abraham learned: God is “All-sufficient” for us in times of delay and times of deliverance.

God reveals Himself to Abraham in Genesis 17:1 as “God Almighty.” He declares that He is El Shaddai, the God in Whom is all-sufficiency. This revelation of God’s omnipotent attributes serves as a gentle rebuke against Abraham’s impetuosity. God graciously allows man to play a part in His Divine plan, but He does not need the assistance of man.  If we are willing to obey Him and wait on His timing, doing things in His way, then we reap the satisfaction that can only be derived from serving the purpose to which He has called us. God was “All-sufficient”, able to bring a living soul from the deadness and barrenness of Sarah’s womb. He was not limited in what He was able to perform by the “deadness” of Abraham and Sarah’s body. God did not need Hagar to bear the son of promise, nor would He permit her to do so. We have but to look at the repeated occurrences of the phrase “I will” coming from the mouth of God throughout this chapter to see that His covenant with Abraham was all about what He would do on Abraham’s behalf. He required faith from Abraham, He did not require him to bring about the promises through his own strength. His covenant with us, the New Covenant through Jesus Christ, requires the same.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 7, 2010]

[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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The God Who Sees Me

“Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” (Genesis 16:13)

I once worked with a woman who described her religious beliefs as “neo-Pagan.” She worshiped “Mother Nature” and exalted the “Power of the Feminine.” She liked to discuss matters of faith and would often tell me with great excitement of how she and her group would perform various ceremonies in the forests in order to incur the blessings of the “goddess.” She knew that I was a Christian which, in her eyes, was an equally valid “path” to knowing the Divine, just as hers was.

At one point, I was facing a difficult crisis in my life and this woman kindly expressed her concern for what I was going through. I thanked her and told her that I knew everything would be fine and that I was trusting God to bring me through it. I was absolutely shocked when she looked me in the eye and sadly replied, “Well, at least when you have problems you can pray to a God Who listens to you. All I can do is pray to a tree.”

Now, I acknowledge that there are likely many proponents of her belief system who would vehemently argue that the majority of those who practice it are not nearly so flippant about their devotion. I certainly am in no position to question the sincerity of any other “neo-Pagans.” All I know is that, in a moment of candor, this particular individual revealed her own view of the efficacy of her beliefs. In times of peace and tranquility, it seems that the esoteric nature of her religious practice was quite appealing, but she recognized that during her own moments of trial her object of worship was powerless to help her.

“[The Angel of the LORD] said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”Genesis 16:8)

Imagine Hagar, a woman who grew up in the land of Egypt with its pantheon of silent “gods” who neither see nor hear, who now suddenly hears the voice of the living God speaking to her in a remote wilderness. Calling her by name, He rhetorically asks from where she has come and to where she is going. Not only does she hear the audible voice of Deity, but this God is concerned about her. He is interested in her past and in her future, asking her where she has come from and where she is going. He knows who she is (“Hagar, Sarai’s maid”) and He has found her in this barren desert. Hagar has fled from the mistreatment of her mistress, Sarah, and has headed back toward the only other home she knew: the land of her birth, Egypt. It hardly seems likely that a young, pregnant woman could have survived the harsh and unforgiving wilderness through which she journeyed alone and without supplies, but anger over the abuses that others do to us can compel us to the rashest of decisions. Hagar seemed to have nothing in view, not even her own safety and that of her unborn child, but to be removed from the place of her torment. Now, she lay exhausted and alone by the side of the road in a vast wasteland. She probably felt that no one in the entire world cared whether she lived or died, yet God reached out to her in this desolate place.

As we read through the Bible, the focus is given so much to the key players in God’s plan that we can easily lose sight of the fact that the Lord is concerned with all people, not just those at “center stage.” The fate of Hagar has little bearing on what God is doing in the life of Abraham, and it seems that this episode of her flight into the desert could have easily been omitted entirely. Isaac is the son of promise, not Ishmael, so what difference does it make what happened to Hagar and her child? The difference is that it reminds all of us that God is concerned with even the “least” of us. What an awesome demonstration of the mighty love of God that He would come to this young lady on her way to Shur and reach out to her. Sarah may have hated her, and Abraham might have cared nothing about what happened to her (Genesis 16:6), but God cared.

Hagar immediately knew that this was not a “god” like any other Who spoke to her. He was a God Who sees. “Call his name Ishmael“, the Lord says of her coming offspring, God shall hear. Hagar can echo the declaration of Isaiah saying, Is the ear of God heavy that it cannot hear? (Isa. 59:1). She learns that there is a living God, the God of all, Who sees and hears and moves in the lives of man. He is not a dumb, lifeless idol who sits upon a shelf, nor is He a tree that cannot hear the prayers of people nor reach His hand out to help them, as my co-worker noted. Beer-lahai-roi, Hagar named the well where she met with Him, The well of Him that lives and sees me.

If you, like Hagar, have fled from your own place of calling; if you have rashly departed from the place where God has put you — is He not telling you the very same thing? Return, submit (v. 9). Go back to where He has brought you.  There is no record of a great reconciliation upon Hagar’s homecoming back to the house of Abraham, in fact, we see in Genesis 22:10 that Sarah most likely never got over her contempt for her handmaiden. But Hagar returned a changed woman, we can be certain. For now she had the promise of God given to her that her son would be the father of a great multitude of people. And, more importantly, she had the knowledge that God’s eye was upon her and His concern was with her, wherever it was that she may go.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 6, 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?“]

Who Is The “Angel Of The Lord?”

“And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.” (Genesis 16:7)

In Genesis Chapter 16, we are given the first instance in the Bible of the expression, “The angel of the Lord.” After Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, flees from her mistress, she encounters the “angel of the Lord” by a fountain of water in the desert between Canaan and Egypt. But the question is: Who exactly is this “angel of the Lord”, and what is his position? In order to answer this, let us consider a few things that we know about him from what the Bible tells us:

He Speaks With Authority

“And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.” (Genesis 16:9-10)

The first peculiarly striking aspect of the “angel of the Lord” is that he speaks with the authority of God Himself. Other “angels” appearing throughout Scripture do not speak with the authority that belongs to God alone but as those sent forth on His behalf. For example, In Genesis 19:13 the two angels who come to warn Lot to depart from Sodom before its destruction say:

“For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.”

They plainly state that they have been sent by the Lord. They also make it clear that they are acting under strict orders to refrain from destroying the city of Sodom until Lot is safely out (Genesis 19:22). These two angels are acting under orders from God while the “angel of the Lord” states in Genesis 16:10, “I will multiply thy seed…” Whenever we read of any instances of other angels, that is, those not designated as THE angel of the Lord, speaking to people, they state what God has done, is doing, or will do, they do not talk about what they themselves are doing, and they are certainly not claiming to be able to do those things that God alone can do (such as giving many descendants to a person, such as is told to Hagar here).

He Is Worshiped

“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed…And he said, Draw not nigh thither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:2, 5)

When we compare this to what the angel who showed John the events of the Book of Revelation, we read that the worship of angels is forbidden:

“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” (Revelation 22:8-9)

He Bears The Name Of God

“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.” (Exodus 23:20-21)

Others Identify Him As God

After the “angel of the Lord” speaks to Hagar, she responds:

“And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Genesis 16:13)

Later, when Jacob is referring to the “Angel of God” appearing to him in a dream, he says:

“And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said… I am the God of Bethel…” (Genesis 31:11,12a,13a)

He Identifies Himself As God

During Moses first encounter with the “Angel of the Lord” at the burning bush (Exodus 3), the “angel” tells Moses after commanding him to take off his shoes:

“…I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (v. 6)

In the Book of Judges, Manoah has an encounter with the “Angel of the Lord” and dares to ask the angel what his name is. The angel responds:

“And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Judges 13:18 ESV)

“Wonderful” is one of the names that Isaiah ascribes to the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6).

He Is No Longer Mentioned In The New Testament

It is noteworthy that the expression “The Angel of the Lord” is unique to the Old Testament and is not found as such in the New. The King James Version does occasionally designate angels as “the angel of the Lord” (e.g., Acts 5:19), but the use of the definite article (the) is inaccurate and the indefinite article (an) should appear, as is the case in most other translations. After the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, “THE Angel of the Lord” does not appear again in Scripture.

Summary

In light of all of these details, I believe that it is most fitting to conclude that the “Angel of the Lord” is none other than the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ: God the Son. There are many other intriguing factors to consider as we read the encounters of the “Angel of the Lord” with His people throughout the Old Testament. Lord willing, we shall look at these as we come to them.

***English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
*All other Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version (KJV)

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 5, 2010]

[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?“]

Waiting For God’s Timing

“So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”  (Genesis 16:2)

When we think of the testing of Abraham’s faith, the first thing we tend to think of is his offering up of Isaac (Genesis 22). We are captivated by the account of how Abraham was moved by faith to obey God completely, even obeying the seemingly unreasonable command of God to sacrifice his own son; the son that he had waited for so long. While Abraham proved his faith to be mighty in that instance, we have here in Chapter 16 an instance where Abraham’s faith was tested and the results were not as admirable.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3 KJV)

While Abraham’s obedience to God’s command to offer up Isaac is a truly astounding demonstration of a faith that is wholly and completely invested in God, we know from our own experiences that it is not the immediate and direct commandment of God to act that gives so much trouble as the commandment to be still and wait for His timing. Admittedly, there are surely few of us whose own faith has matured to such a level that we would have followed in Abraham’s footsteps and offered up the life of our own child as he did, but we certainly can relate to the zeal and passion that is felt when we are responding to the Lord’s clear direction. When God issues the command to Go, our devotion to Him and our trust in His Word can cause us to give reckless abandon to all else, even our own safety and well-being, and esteem even our very lives as not so precious as what we have in Him.

But what of the times when our Lord tells us not to Go, but to Wait? It is during these periods that the true fortitude of our faith is most clearly revealed. When we have the promise of God, it is usually our desire to see it come to fruition as soon as possible. As the days turn into weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to years, our tendency is to reconsider what God has told us and wonder whether or not we have missed something in what He told us. Was there something else we were supposed to do?  Is there some way that we can help things along? Time has passed now since Abraham was shown the stars of the sky and the dust of the Earth — being promised by God that his own seed should one day be equal to these in multitude. The fire that burned from the lamp and the smoke that billowed from the pot as the Lord ratified His covenant with Abraham back in Chapter 15 are gone, and all that Abraham sees as he ponders the promise given to him is the age of his own body and the barrenness of Sarah’s, now well beyond the normal age of child-bearing.

As is so often the case, Abraham’s temptation to circumvent the agony of waiting patiently for God to fulfill His promise in His own way comes from a most unlikely source. Sarah herself proposes that Abraham should take her handmaiden, Hagar, to wife — that she might bear for her mistress the child that Sarah could not. While such a practice was customary in the culture of the time, this was in no way the manner in which God intended His promise to be made good. God never meant for Abraham to “take matters into his own hands”, God’s purpose all along was to bring about the son of promise (Isaac) through Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

When we fail to wait patiently for the Lord’s timing in our lives, calamity almost certainly follows. Abraham’s union with Hagar is no exception. Hagar learns that she has conceived a child by Abraham and becomes haughty toward her mistress, Sarah. She feels disdain toward Sarah because she has done what Sarah could not. She did not maintain a submissive attitude toward Sarah but became untoward in her relationship with her. It is likely that she now believed that her own child would stand to inherit the wealth of Abraham and that this would no doubt endear herself more intimately to Abraham than even his own wife. Sarah regrets the decision that she has made in bringing Hagar to her husband and now wishes nothing more than to be rid of this embarrassment altogether. What a warning to be heeded by all who use others in order to accomplish their own ends! Regardless of what authority a person may hold over another, that person is never without feelings, desires, and plans of their own. People can never be treated as mindless automatons at the disposal of another, being used however they please. Sarah’s wish was to simply employ her handmaid as a sort of passionless surrogate to bear for her a child that she could call her own son. Yet when we disregard the feelings and emotions of others and seek to use them only to fulfill our own purposes, repercussions are bound to come back on us.

The lesson for Sarah, Abraham, and indeed for all of us from this unfortunate episode is that we are compelled to do all things in God’s timing and in God’s way. As we considered before, the actual deed that Abraham did was not in and of itself appalling within the context of the culture of the day. Sarah’s suggestion was not invalid by man’s estimation; even Abraham apparently found it quite reasonable. But in carrying it out he exhibited his own impatience rather than his trust for the living God.

How often are we guilty of committing similar offenses?  Rather than waiting for the Spirit of God to bring His promises to pass in our own lives, we try to “help things along.” In doing so, we make compromises that most assuredly bring us nothing but disaster later on. This is by no means an excuse to sit by idly when God has commanded us to move forward, but if we are doing all that God has instructed us to do, if we have followed the path that He has laid out for us, we are wise to not stray from it. When God tells us to Go, we must do so unhesitatingly. When He tells us to Wait, we must do so patiently.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 4, 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?“]

 

How Much Time Is Enough?

“And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16)

The objection has been raised in regards to the Book of Joshua and the occupation of the land of Canaan by the children of Israel, that it doesn’t quite seem fair to the people who already inhabited the land. How can God be considered good and just, it has been asked, when it seems that He ordered the arbitrary genocide of an entire race of people?

In the Book of Leviticus, we catch a glimpse of just how horrific and appalling the sins of this people had become by the time the Israelites began to take possession of the land. Their depravity had reached such a point that the land itself is said to have become defiled, and that this land vomited them out, as it were (Lev. 18:24-28). But the question remains, Did they have ample opportunity to turn from their sin before judgment came upon them?

Almost a footnote in God’s prophecy to Abraham concerning the coming captivity of the Jewish people to the Egyptians, the Lord mentions in Genesis 15:16, “…For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” How profound are the implications of this simple statement! We see that God is concerned with the fate of the people who already occupy the land of Canaan. These are real people whom God loves and wants to turn to Him. There is no question that it was not God’s desire that these people be utterly wiped out by the nation of Israel. No, He wanted them to repent of their sins. Their iniquity was “not yet complete”, in other words, they were being given time to come around. What if they had repented and come to God, would they have been destroyed anyway? Since God had already decreed it, was there no hope for them?

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.” (Jeremiah 18:7-8)

The people already in the land of Canaan were afforded more than 400 years to repent of their wickedness and turn to God. If four centuries was insufficient time for them to change, then how much time was necessary? Secular humanists say that mankind, left to his own devices, will become  better and more responsible with greater moral character over time. Human morality, they say, is “evolving” just as our physical bodies are “evolving.” The suggestion is that man becomes nobler as time goes by, and his actions more benevolent. But this certainly was not the case for the Amorites. God gave them more than 400 years to turn from their sins and all they did during that time was become worse and worse.

“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5)

God gave a space of time to the Canaanites that they might turn from their sin and turn to Him. He graciously gave them 400 years to come to Him. But all that they did during this time was become bolder in their sinfulness and more blatant in their wickedness. The problem was not that they did not have enough time to come to God, but that they chose not to. The problem also was not that they were ignorant of Who God was nor of His glory (Joshua 2:9-11). The problem was that they loved their sin and despised God, rejecting His gracious offer of repentance and exhausting His long-suffering patience. With each passing day they became more emboldened in their rebellion, thinking that God’s judgment would never come. Yet they succeeded not in preventing the inevitable, only in storing up the wrath of God against themselves.

If you have not yet come to Christ, turning from your own sins, then may I ask you: How much time is enough? Are you waiting for another day, preferring to enjoy the temporary and fleeting pleasures of your own sinfulness a little longer? Are you supposing that there will be time enough later to come to God and make things right with Him? God is patient and He allows all of us a period of time to repent and turn to Him, but the time comes when we have exhausted His patience, repudiated His Grace, and waited too long. The Amorites had 400 years, but we can be assured that we have nowhere near so long. Like them, we know not how long we do have before all that remains for us is certain judgment. Won’t you come to Him today?

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 17, 2009]

[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?“]

***All Scripture quotations in this post are from: English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

 

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