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Shall Not The Judge Of All The Earth Do Right?

“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)

In verse 25, we have the second profound rhetorical question of Genesis 18: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Last time, the Lord posed the question: Is anything too hard for the Lord? Now, Abraham poses this one. I call them both rhetorical questions, those which are asked only to emphasize, not to gain new information. They are questions that need no answers, for the answers to them are already known and settled. Or are they?

For a great many skeptics of the Bible, this question of the Judge of all the earth doing right is something known and already settled, too. But in their viewpoint, the answer is a resounding No! One of the most common objections to the veracity of the Bible being raised in our generation (and it does really go back much farther) is what has been called the “character assassination” of God. Entire books have been penned by prominent atheistic philosophers and scientists ridiculing what they call the cruel, vindictive, and capricious nature of God. They take issue with the justice of God’s judgments as described in the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) and have even accused God of being immoral in His actions.

But it seems that Abraham put a little more trust in God’s ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Apparently, Abraham, having a very real and intimate knowledge of God, reached a different conclusion than those who prefer to smugly dissect the Word of God and cherry-pick a verse here and there that they personally find distasteful. Maybe Abraham learned a great deal more about the God of the Universe through his personal encounters with Him in the wilderness of Canaan than we are able to ascertain in a musty library 30 to 40 centuries later? At any rate, Abraham was convinced enough of God’s justice that he is emboldened to raise the question of whether or not God will arbitrarily destroy the righteous and the wicked when He judges Sodom and Gomorrah.

“And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23)

It’s worth noting that Abraham drew near before he posed any question about the Lord’s impending actions. Before any of us can hope to make any kind of intercession with God, we must be close to Him. God is simply not going to hear the prayers from a heart that is far from Him, save the prayer that seeks to come closer to Him. Abraham does not question the righteousness and justice of God, but “reminds” Him of it. Abraham is not trying to determine whether or not God will judge the righteous and the wicked, all he really has in mind is knowing whether or not his nephew, Lot, who lives in Sodom is among the righteous that will not perish. Thus he begins his countdown of asking if the Lord shall spare the city for the sake of 50, 45, 40, and so on, righteous people. I believe that he certainly had his doubts about whether or not Lot was really a saved man or not, and this prevented him from just coming right out and asking. As the numbers got lower and lower, I think he became more and more concerned.

“Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.” (Job 37:23)

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Abraham knew that God will always do what is right and just. Job and his friends learned this lesson, too. We could probably use this very question as the summarizing phrase for the entire Book of Job, in fact. It might be easy to stand far back and look at God’s actions and decide whether or not we feel that what He has done is right or not. But if we do as Abraham did, if we draw near to God, if we get to know Him, we will see that the Judge of all the earth invariably does what is right.

“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9)

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 18, 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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Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord?

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 18:14)

As we come to chapter 18 in our study of the Book of Genesis, we see the most dramatic of all of God’s appearances to Abraham. Here, the Lord and two angels visit him in the form of human beings. This visitation immediately brings to our minds the reminder given by the writer to the Hebrews who said that we do well in showing hospitality to strangers: for some have “entertained angels unaware” (Heb. 13:2). Surely had the Lord not revealed His identity to Abraham here, this would have been such an occasion. Nevertheless, we can be certain that Abraham was in need of no such reminder and was in the practice of displaying this kind of hospitality to all who passed his way.

There are a great deal of things that may be observed during this encounter and many lessons that we can learn from it. However, highlighted in my Bible are two simple, rhetorical questions that I feel are among the highest points of spiritual truth that we glean from this chapter. These two questions are the hinges upon which the great revelations of God’s character in Genesis 18 swing. The first of these is:

Is anything too difficult for the Lord? (v.14)

As God re-confirms His promise to Abraham of a son born by Sarah, Sarah herself overhears His words and laughs at the notion of conceiving a child in her old age. Shall Abraham and I really bear a child at our age?, she thinks within herself. The Lord responds by asking why she has laughed and then asks the question: Is anything too hard for the Lord? It is to this end that it seems that God has waited so long to bless them with a child. He could have caused Sarah to conceive many, many years before, but He has chosen this time to do so. Why?

I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

Wherein can man behold so vividly the strength and glory of God than when He performs “the impossible?” At what time do we trust so greatly in God’s power than when we have come to realize the insufficiency of our own? God withheld Sarah’s conception of Isaac until the point when there was absolutely no other way that he could be born apart from God’s miraculous intervention. What pure faith is revealed within us when we reach the conclusion that if something is to be done, then God alone must do it. This was the point of faith that God had been bringing Abraham and Sarah to all along. Hebrews 11:11 tells us that Sarah did, in fact, believe that God was able to perform that which He promised, but it seems that just the thought of it gave her a brief pause when first she heard Him utter it.

Sarah’s reaction of laughter, her brief moment of incredulity, is born not of her distrust in God, but in her distrust of herself. She is not really intending to express skepticism in what God can do, but in what she is capable of. After I am old, she thinks, shall I have the pleasure of motherhood? Is this not so often the point of our own contention of faith? We take our eyes off of what God can do and look only at what we cannot do. We tell the Lord that our faith is firmly rooted in Him, yet we have no faith in ourselves. But we fail to see that this is precisely the realization that God intends for us to have! It is in our weaknesses and inabilities that the glorious strength and abilities of God are shown in such remarkable contrast (2 Corinthians 12:10). It is only when things become impossible for us that we learn to say: Is anything too hard for the Lord?

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 15, 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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