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Tag Archives: Religion

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?“]

 

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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.

 

The King Of Sodom

“And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,” (Genesis 14:21-22)

Some of the highest spiritual peaks in life are immediately followed by the valleys of temptation. Staying vigilant and being alert for the temptation to lose our trust in God when times are tough and our resources are lean is one thing, but what about the other times? What about the times when we are prospering, when we are successful, when we are well-fed rather than starving? The tempter comes not only when our need seems great, but also when it seems that we have no need at all.

From a human standpoint, things could not have been brighter in the life of Abraham as he made his way home from rescuing Lot. He was now without a doubt the greatest hero in all the land, doing what nobody else had been able to. With a small force, he had completely routed the armies of Chedorlaomer and the kings of the East, and now he was leading a procession of grateful rescued captives along with all of the looted treasures of Sodom and Gomorrah.  There is no question that Abraham was at this time considered to be the most famous and powerful man in all of Canaan.

Not only this, but Abraham had just encountered the priest of God, Melchizedek, and had enjoyed fellowship with him. This enigmatic gentile king and the very first Hebrew had come together and partaken of the Bread and the Wine of the Lord’s Supper, looking forward to the day that the Lord Jesus Christ would secure their own redemption through His death and resurrection. Melchizedek at this time reveals to Abraham that God is the El Elyon, the Most High God, Possessor of Heaven and Earth. What a profound experience of the presence of God this must have been!

No sooner has Abraham left the table of Communion with Melchizedek then he is met by the King of Sodom. I am sure that the king of Sodom had a broad smile on his face as he poured out praises and adorations to the returning hero. Patting him on the back, he tells Abraham,

“Great job, Abram! you did it. Your mighty power is unmatched, what a victory you had over Chedorlaomer. You have my undying gratitude and I want to personally present you with the key to the city of Sodom. We already have plans to build a twenty foot statue of you in the town square, and the Chamber of Commerce would like you and Sarai to have season tickets for all the home games of the local football team. Abraham, the world is your oyster. What a fantastic job you did beating those kings and chasing them all the way to Hobah, your name has been in the headlines of the Sodom Times every single day for the past three weeks. I tell you what, you have definitely earned the right to keep all of the goods that those Eastern kings plundered from us, why don’t  you just let me have the people and you can keep everything else for yourself, how does that sound?”

Sodom is a portrait of this world. The King of Sodom represents the prince of this world, Satan. The temptation is that Abraham will get his eyes off the things of God and turn them to the things of this world. Had he accepted the offer of the King of Sodom, he would have been beholden to him. Even though Abraham had a right to receive a bounty for delivering the wealth of Sodom back to the king, doing so would have put him under subjection to him. For the remainder of Abraham’s days, anytime that Abraham would have told anyone how God had prospered him there would always be this footnote; his legacy would forever bear the parenthetic annotation that the king of the wicked city of Sodom had contributed to Abraham’s success. The glory that belongs to God alone would have been divided with the prince of this world.

What a striking similarity this temptation shares with our Lord’s own temptation in the wilderness. “Give me the persons”, says the king of Sodom, “take for yourself the goods.” The devil makes the same enticement to the Lord Jesus Christ, Take for Yourself the wealth, the goods, the very kingdoms of this world, but give unto me the souls of men (Luke 4:5-7). What an ironic contrast between the type of man that Abraham was and the type of man that Lot was: Lot, who symbolizes the backsliding believer, was willing to sacrifice his fellowship with God and with Abraham that he might partake of the wealth of Sodom (this world), Abraham was unwilling to sacrifice his fellowship with God even for all the wealth of Sodom – which is exactly what was now being offered to him. Lot wanted all that Sodom had to offer, Abraham wanted not a single part of it.

There are those who believe that it does not matter how or from whom the child of God receives a “blessing”, they just naturally assume that any wealth or increase that comes their way is free for the taking. I shudder to think that if Abraham had been a proponent of modern Prosperity Theology, he would have accepted everything that the King of Sodom offered him and then asked him for more. He would have just assumed that this was God’s way of rewarding his faith and that it was his faith that had secured for him the riches of this world. God indeed provides for those who are His own, but we must decide if we will have our eye on the things of God or the things of this world. Are we going to trust in God or are we going to trust in the prince of this world? Is our own heart interested in the eternal spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), or are we seeking to lay up for ourselves earthly treasures which thieves can steal and that rust corrupts (Matthew 6:19-21)? Abraham had learned the lesson that what he had in God was not for sale at any price. His nephew, Lot had not learned it yet. Have you?

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 10, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) 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?“]

Fighting The Battle God’s Way

“And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.” (Genesis 14:14-15)

Not a whole lot of detail is given to us concerning Abraham’s involvement in the war between the five kings of the cities of the Plain of Jordan and the four kings from the East. In fact, we have the first 13 verses of the Fourteenth Chapter of Genesis that tell us how the war began, what it was about, and how the campaign of the Eastern kings under Chedorlaomer played out. Abraham’s victory over them, however,  is summed up in just two verses: 14 and 15. But in those two verses we see three very peculiar “tactics” employed by Abraham that are counter-intuitive and contradictory to accepted military strategy. This is the first of many instances throughout the Bible where we see that the methods used in battle by God’s people are quite distinct from conventional, human wisdom.

Few Against Many

“But while superior tactics are usually important in determining the shifting scales of engagement or battle, they are not necessarily sufficient for success in a campaign or war. A tactically or technically advantaged force may be beaten by a tactically inferior but numerically superior enemy.” (Taken From The Oxford Companion to Military History as quoted from answers.com)

According to conventional military strategy, superior numbers in combat is to be preferred even over superior tactics and technology. In other words, the army with the most soldiers on the battlefield has a distinct advantage over the enemy. While the ability of a simple, nomadic herdsman like Abraham to be able to muster a fighting force of 318 men (from his own household, no less. That was definitely some household!), it is inconceivable that his little militia was in any way comparable to the huge army deployed by Chedorlaomer.  We read in verses 4 and 5 that about a year went by before Chedolaomer responded to the rebellion of the kings in Canaan. It very likely took many months for him to arrange the logistics of deploying the huge force that he brought with him. We also know that his army was vast and powerful because in verses 5-12 we read of the swath of carnage that they plowed through the land, utterly annihilating every tribe of people in their path.

“One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.” (Joshua 23:10)

There is a saying, “One plus God equals a majority.” We see the truth of this statement again and again throughout the Bible as the armies of God’s people waged war when they were greatly outnumbered by their enemies. But when God fights for us, it doesn’t matter how many others are fighting by our side. The Lord will underscore this to Gideon in Judges 7 as He whittles Gideon’s army down to just 300 men against a multitude of Midianites. 300 was enough because it was God Who saved Gideon and delivered the enemy into his hand (Judges 7:7).

Dividing His Own Forces

The second peculiar thing about Abraham’s attack against this enormous army of the kings of the East is that he chose to divide the little fighting force that he had. It is usually the opposing army’s strategy in combat to “divide and conquer” their enemy, a smaller army will usually seek to stick together as much as possible for defensive purposes. Already greatly outnumbered, it would seem logical to make a show of force by closing ranks against the enemy allowing for a sort of “back to back” fighting that would prevent them from being divided and flanked. The Greek phalanx and the Roman legion of ancient times found their strength in their tight formations that would prevent the enemy from cutting through their ranks. Even when vastly outnumbered by barbarians, the Roman legions would employ their classic “tortoise shell” formation, each man’s overlapping shield protecting himself and his comrades while every third soldier would raise his own shield overhead providing a similar covering atop the formation. The result was an impenetrable wall of iron shields that the enemy was unable to break through from any direction, including from above!

But Abraham takes his already thin ranks and divides them further. This intrepid tactic is used again and again by God’s people throughout the Old Testament and seems to lead to confusion and surprise on the part of their enemies as they become convinced that they are up against a much greater sized force. Dividing a smaller army up like this seems to be illogical from a human standpoint, but the psychological results are quite effective!

Attacking By Night

This particular strategy actually makes a great deal of sense for a smaller army fighting a much larger one: get ’em while they’re sleeping. Of course, this has been done often throughout history by armies seeking to take advantage of  the element of surprise. But the image of Chedorlaomer’s army, fresh from a string of unbroken victories, their camp filled with the lamentations of their captured slaves, their coffers overflowing with the booty from their conquests; being drunken with the celebrations of their swift and merciless routing of their enemies; certainly convinced that they were now free to return to their homeland at their own leisure – having no one else to contest their superior might – paints a very vivid picture of God’s judgment coming upon the wicked:

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)

The wicked are most at ease and comfort under the shadows of darkness. The evil feel safe under the cover of night. But the judgments of God are something that no one can hide from  indefinitely, and His vengeance for the iniquities of the depraved falls suddenly. When the space for repentance has been exhausted, only swift and sure judgment remains.

The “Tactics” Of The Lord

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

Like Abraham, when we enter into conflict (though ours is usually spiritual, not physical), we do not use the methods, tactics, and strategies that the world uses. If we are trusting and relying on the Lord to fight the battle for us, He will show us what to do and how to do it. Often, the methods that God chooses for us to use are very different from those used by those who are not His own. But even when we are greatly outnumbered we can be sure, as Abraham was, that when God is with us and we are in His will, we are on the winning side!

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 8, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) 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?“]

An Unusual Offer

 “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:9)

What an unusual offer that Abraham gives to Lot. Let us consider the background of this for a moment: Abraham is the elder of the two, he is Lot’s uncle (and really the closest thing to a father that Lot has at the time), Abraham has taken Lot under his wing since the death of his father, Haran, and after the death of his grandfather (Abraham’s father), Terah. Abraham is the one whom God has called into this new land, Abraham is the one to whom the promise has been made. Lot has just sort of “tagged along” with Uncle Abraham, presumably thinking that this was his only real option. Abraham is clearly the one in charge. Yet Abraham tells Lot when their possessions outgrow the land and it becomes too small to support them both, “You choose which portion you would like and I will take what is leftover.”

Imagine a business executive telling a competitor this. Imagine a nation telling the government of another nation this about anything! This completely defies human nature. Our nature is to seek the best things for ourselves and let everybody else take what’s left over. What we see in Abraham’s offer here is very profound. Why did he make such a generous gesture? Was he merely trying to be polite, hoping that Lot would defer the prerogative of first choice back to his elder?

To presume that this was just the way that Abraham was and that he was naturally an extremely selfless and gracious man is to entirely miss the work of God in his life up to this point. Before he returned from Egypt, we saw Abraham fleeing Canaan under the shadow of famine and lying to the people of Egypt out of a paranoid fear for his life. He had worried that there would not be enough food to support him in this land before, you would think that he would now want to make absolutely certain that he secured the most fertile portions of the land for himself.

But Abraham learned a great deal about the way that God provides after his expulsion from Egypt. He learned to trust the Lord to provide for him, no matter what. He had seen how God can manipulate circumstances, how He can alter the course of events to bring about His will. If God could bring about a plague upon Pharaoh’s house in Egypt in order to deliver Sarah safely back to him, was God not able to provide for Abraham in any portion of the land of Canaan? The promises of the Lord to him were not idle words, Abraham knew now that whatsoever God had spoken, He was able to do. The Lord had promised to bring him into this land and to give it to his descendants for an everlasting possession, what possible difference would it make which portion of the land Lot chose to dwell in?

The way of this world is to exert whatever power and authority over others that we can in order to secure advantages for ourselves. The world teaches that we must fight for whatever we are going to get; and then we must grasp it tenaciously, lest we forfeit what we have gained. But such is not the way that our Lord would have us behave. He tells us that rather than ruling over others, we should serve others (Mark 10:43). He tells us that rather than hoarding things for ourselves, we should share what we have with others. He tells us that rather than seeking to enrich ourselves, we should be interested in providing to others.

Abraham left the decision up to Lot because he knew that God would provide him exactly what he needed and exactly what God wanted him to have. No more, no less. When we entrust our own care to our Lord, we need not struggle, fight, or exert our own authority to get what we need. We, too, can let others seize the “best” portions for themselves because God will make sure that we receive precisely what He wants us to have.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 2, 2009]

**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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