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Tag Archives: Faith

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?“]

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Taking Lot By The Hand

“But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16)

There really is not much that we can find comforting or encouraging in Genesis 19, but Verse 16 is quite reassuring. Lot is commanded by the two angels to depart from the city of Sodom and warned that if he does not, he too shall be consumed. I like to think that, had I been in Lot’s shoes, those two angels would have had a hard time keeping up with me as I sprinted full-speed for the hills. But, looking back on my own track record, it is just as likely that I would have responded the same way Lot did.

The angels could not have made the urgency of the situation any clearer to Lot and his family. Yet what did Lot do? He hesitated. Lot’s co-operation with those trying to save him was not very impressive. How often do we do the same thing when we receive instructions from the Lord? We delay, we procrastinate, we make excuses. He tells us, “Go now” and we answer, “Just a minute.” There were things in Sodom that Lot really had no desire to leave behind. We know that he believed God, but he definitely had one eye on Heaven and one on Earth.

What I find so comforting about this particular verse is the response that the two angels, acting on God’s behalf, give to Lot’s hesitation. Did they tell him that he was out of luck because he did not act quickly enough? Did they stand there and reason with him, argue with him, or continue to try to persuade him? No, there just was not time enough for that. Did they walk away, shaking their heads, telling him that they were sorry but he had forfeited his salvation from Sodom because of his hesitation? No. They laid hold on his hand and brought him forth!

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

The Lord Jesus is our Shepherd, leading us by His voice. We are His sheep and are guided by His Word. But what happens when we fall behind, when we ourselves linger and become too far away to hear the sound of His voice? He leaves the other sheep to search us out until He has found us (Luke 15:4). He comes back to us, calling out to us all the while. And when He does find us, He carries us upon His own shoulders and brings us to safety (Luke 15:5-6). We see in John 10:27-29 that we hear His voice, He knows us, and we follow Him. But we also see that He is holding us in His own hand.

Lot was saved from the destruction that came upon Sodom (God’s  judgment) because he believed God. Lot was not told by the angels: “OK, here’s what’s gonna happen. Good luck and we’ll see you on the other side!” They led him every step of the way, and when he started to fall behind, they took him out by the hand. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we may lose our way from time to time. We may linger and hesitate to keep in step with where He is taking us, but our Salvation is not contingent on our own efforts any more than Lot’s was. Once we have put our faith in Him, once we have become a part of His flock, He will bring us to safety, even if He must take us by the hand and carry us.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 22, 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?“]

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?“]

Faith Must Precede Sacrament

“And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.” (Genesis 17:25)

Genesis 17 closes with Abraham and the men of his household obeying God’s instructions by carrying out the rite of circumcision. Abraham believed all that God has told him (Romans 4:18-22) and responded in faith to God’s directions. But what of the others who partook of this ceremony that day? Were they, too, moved by faith in God’s promise — or were they merely acquiescing to Abraham’s wishes, since he was the master of the house? What of the young man Ishmael, Abraham’s son? He, too, possessed a very personal portion in the promises that God handed down to his father (Genesis 17:20); was he moved by faith in God to obey of his own volition the directives of God Almighty?

We brush upon a phenomenon at the closing of Genesis 17 that we have but to look around us in our own day to see is still being practiced. The unrepentant and the unconverted go through the same motions that the genuine children of God do. Ours is not to search the hearts of others and determine their hidden motives, that prerogative belongs to our Lord alone. But we do well to realize that chaff grows also among the fields of wheat and that they often perform the very same observances. Ishmael was circumcised right alongside his godly father, both in obedience to God’s commandment, yet Ishmael’s later words and actions (e.g., Genesis 21:9) would betray that he did not have the underlying faith that Abraham had.

There are two great lessons that we can learn from the circumcision of Ishmael. First, although God gives certain signs and sacraments that identify a person with God, not all who partake in that sacrament are truly servants of God. We will find throughout the Bible men who were of the circumcision that were clearly not genuine children of God. Second, we see that the sacrament itself does nothing to produce faith or righteousness in those who perform it. Abraham and the men of his household gained nothing that they did not already have once they had carried out their circumcision. Nobody’s faith was boosted by this, nobody’s eyes were suddenly opened, neither was anybody made acceptable or presentable to God by going through this. The merit in what they did was valid only when they moved in voluntary obedience to the Lord and enacted this as an outward token of an inward conversion. The rite itself could produce no inward conversion at all.

And what of our own signs and tokens that identify a person as a child of God? Does Baptism, taking of the Lord’s Supper, or even belonging to a local church body affect any change in a person? In and of themselves, no they do not. A person does not become a child of God by doing these things, a person does these things because they are a child of God. Our sacraments are of a great value to the authentic believer and serve as an outward identification that we are a member of the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as circumcision served to identify people as members of the nation of Israel. But they do not produce faith in us, nor do they endear us to God when our hearts are far from Him. Ishmael went through the motions that said that he was a genuine member of God’s covenant, yet he was not. Apparently, he did not truly believe God and circumcision did not change that. If the faith does not exist before the sacrament is carried out, it will not be created by carrying it out, for faith comes not but by hearing and believing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith must precede sacrament for the sacrament to be of any value.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 12, 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?“]

What’s In A Name?

No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”  (Genesis 17:5)

Nowadays, people tend to give their children names because either they have a family member who bears that name or else simply because they like the sound of the name. In the culture of the Bible, we do see that the practice was sometimes made of naming children after family members (e.g., Luke 1:59-61), but more often it seems that children were given a name that would be descriptive of them, or would reflect the circumstances surrounding their birth (e.g., Genesis 25:25-26). In other words, names meant something. You could actually learn something about a person just by knowing their name.

We see at times in Scripture where God will change the name of an individual to show what He has done in that person’s life. Jacob (literally, he supplants or heel-catcher) is named by his parents because he is born holding onto his twin brother’s heel. Later, God will call him Israel (literally, God prevails) because he spent a night wrestling with God (unsuccessfully, we might add). As God confirms and clarifies His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17, He will give new names both to Abraham (heretofore called Abram) and to Sarah (Sarai before now). Why does God do so?

Abraham (Father of a multitude) is called so because God will bring from him a multitude of descendants. Sarah (Princess or Queen) is identified as such because these descendants will come through her. There is something very striking in this instance of God renaming them, however, and that is their situation at the time that God does it. Lest we forget the context, may we imagine for a moment a 99-year-old man whose only child is a young man born to him by a bond-servant, telling those around him that his name is now Father of a multitude. Not only so, but this man declares that his 90-year-old wife who is without a child of her own is now to be known as Queen, for she will be the mother of this great multitude. What was the reaction from those in his household? What did Hagar and Ishmael think of this? We can only imagine the sneering and ridicule that went on behind the backs of Sarah and Abraham because every time their names were spoken, it was a sharp reminder of the ledge of faith that they had stepped out onto.

“(As it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.”  (Romans 4:17)

But we learn in this encounter between God and Abraham that, from God’s perspective, all things are past tense. God tells Abraham that He will make him a father of nations, but from where God is standing, it’s a “done deal.” Abraham would not appear to have earned his name until long after he is dead and gone, but God renames him at this time because what the Lord has said shall most surely come to pass. Abraham and Sarah exhibited their faith by bearing these new names even when it must have appeared to others that such titles were nothing more than an ironic joke. They may have tried to bring about the promise of children through their own efforts before, but now they would simply believe that God was able to bring it to pass in His own time and in His own way. God Almighty had declared that they were the parents of a multitude of descendants, and that was all that mattered.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 8, 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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