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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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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?“]

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?“]

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?“]

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