Monthly Archives: January 2017

Genesis 19-20 Do The Right Thing

Abimelech thought Sarah was Abraham’s sister. And she was. They had the same father. But that wasn’t the whole story.

Sarah must have been a stunning mature woman because when Abimelech saw her, he liked what he saw, and took her into his house. (I want to know where she got her face cream) He had every intention of sleeping with this woman.

God appeared to Abimelech in a dream before he did the deed, and told him Sarah was Abraham’s wife. He replied, “I DIDN’T KNOW!”

I read a couple commentaries on this passage and was puzzled at what one of them had to say on the subject. The author said that Abimelech’s heart did not condemn him because he was not “knowingly and wittingly” sinning against God. He goes on to say that God knows the honesty of the heart and will acknowledge it.

So why are we sending missionaries into remote tribes in Africa? If they don’t know they’re sinning and will get a free pass, aren’t we complicating things by telling them about Jesus? And why did Jesus tell us to go tell the world about Him if people who don’t know about Him aren’t condemned when their hearts are honest?

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Does that mean what I think it means?

Here’s what I see in the account of Abimelech and Sarah. Abimelech was sinning. Maybe not physically, but certainly in his mind. God told him to stop. He did acknowledge the fact that Abimelech didn’t know Sarah was a married woman, that he’d been deceived. God got his attention before Abimelech went any further.

Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die. (Gen 20:6-7)

Abimelech listened to God’s warnings. He didn’t go through with his plan to take Sarah as his wife. And that’s how God wants us to respond to His attempts to get us to stop sinning, too.

You’ve heard His warnings. They may have come through the voice of your pastor on a Sunday morning. They may be your mother’s voice in your head, or from the uneasiness you get when reading His Word. His warnings may come when you find it hard to pray because of that sin you are planning, or living with. You may feel guilt, or shame, or sadness, or uneasiness, and those may be God’s way of getting your attention before you go any further in that sin.

The problem comes when we get so used to living with God’s promptings, we become masters in ignoring them. We learn to live with guilt. We stop trying to pray. And we postpone spending any time in His Word.

Hear God say, “Stop.” Consider the truth that every sin comes with a death penalty. And understand that God wants to stop you before you go any further, because He loves you. He wants you to obey Him because He wants to fellowship with you. He wants you to confess your sin and allow His blood to cover that sin.

Maybe you honestly don’t know that what you are doing is a sin. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t trying to get your attention to point that important fact out to you. Ignorance doesn’t get a free pass, and He will stop at nothing to get you to recognize sin so He can forgive you when you ask.

Abimelech did the right thing in response to God’s warnings. I pray we all will do the same.

 

Genesis 18 – The Lie

My fifth grade English teacher, Mrs. Majors, was collecting homework one day. She always collected the papers alphabetically so, with a last name beginning with Z, I had plenty of time to sweat. I hadn’t done my homework. I watched her praise the kids who put their papers on her desk, and yell at and lecture the few who didn’t.

So when she finally got to me, I said, “It’s in my locker.”

“Ok,” she said. “Class, you may sit in your seats and talk. Connie and I are going to go look for her homework.”

Mrs. Majors told me to get the trash can. She took me into the hall while I heard my classmates chatting and laughing and enjoying some free time. Then she stood behind me while I pulled every book, every piece of paper, every pencil out of that locker.

A few times I’d look at her with what I’m sure was a helpless look, only to hear her firmly say “Keep going. It must be there if you said it’s there.”

I kept “looking.” I threw away things  I didn’t need, straightened out the things I needed, knowing full well I wasn’t going to find that homework.

She knew that, too.

Sarah was a barren old woman. Her hopes for having a child had been dashed every month for decades. I can understand the sadness, the stress, and disappointment she must have lived with all those years.

In chapter 18 of Genesis she was probably post-menopausal, well past child-bearing years. So when she overheard Abraham’s conversation about her having a child, she laughed. Was it a belly laugh or a snicker, did the thought tickle her or was there bitterness in her laugh? We don’t know.

But when the Lord asked Abraham why Sarah laughed, did she think God couldn’t do what He said, Sarah lied:

“I didn’t laugh.”

The Lord replied. “Oh, yes you did.”

Too often our first response to being “caught” is to lie. I wasn’t speeding, officer. The check is in the mail. My homework is in my locker. But who are we kidding?

I am reminded that God is not fooled. If I hear a sermon that convicts me, I might promise to change, or to do that thing God is calling me to do, knowing full well I probably won’t. If I am talking to Christian friends, I might say something like, “I never drink too much” or “I usually read my Bible every day” or “I’ll pray about that with you” or “I don’t look at porn” or “I would never…” and all the time, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know it’s not true.

Hear what God said to Sarah and know that you aren’t fooling Him a bit. Don’t try to lie to Him. It will never work. He knows.

And He loves you. He created us and understands our imperfections. He died to forgive that sin, that lie. Be quick to ask His forgiveness instead of wasting time denying it.

You might not have to miss recess.

Genesis 17 – Let Me Help You With That

Abraham heard God. And even though he was almost 100 years old, he believed God when God told him he would be the father of many nations. In fact, Abraham had believed that promise for about 25 years, waited 25 years for Sarah to have his child. But there was still no child.

13 years before the event in the 17th chapter, Abraham had become a father. You remember Hagar and Ishmael. Was it a moment of weakness, a bit of disbelief, impatience, or something else that caused Abraham to take matters into his own hands? Whatever the reason, Abraham did have a son.

So when God again spoke to the 100 year old Abraham about the Promise, Abraham voiced his opinion. “Look, Lord,” he seems to say. “I believe you. You tell me I’m going to be the father of many nations, so I’m going to be the father of many nations. But let’s get real. I’m old. I don’t think I have it in me to produce a son with Sarah. Why don’t we just consider Ishmael the answer to the Promise. He’s my son, he’s here and healthy. If you bless him, we could get on with it.”

God didn’t like that idea. It was never His intention to use Ishmael to fulfill His promise to Abraham. He didn’t need Abraham’s help. And He was going to prove it.

I think it’s a fine line between being obedient to God, and going ahead of Him. Sometimes we might get impatient, or doubt. We rationalize and over-think things, then move ahead without waiting on God to move. I think that usually turns out badly.

I don’t have the magic formula to knowing how to distinguish between obeying God, and going ahead of Him. But I believe if God is calling you to do something, and if you are faithfully in His Word, praying, and being intentional about recognizing His nudge, you’ll do that thing at just the right time, in just the right way.

Is God calling you to action? Wait on Him. Trust Him. It might not happen when or like you imagine. But if you follow Him, rather than lead Him, it’s going to be incredible.

 

Genesis 15-16 God Sees Me

Hagar was an Egyptian girl working in Abram’s household. Was she able to observe Abram’s faith in God? Did Sarai talk to her servant about God? Did Hagar become a believer as a result of knowing Abram and Sarai? Scripture doesn’t tell us that. But God spoke to this Egyptian girl just like He spoke to Abram.

Hagar heard God’s voice. 16:7 tells us the “angel of the Lord” found her and talked to her.

God has many names. And I love them all. But the one Hagar gave God speaks to me today. “You are the God who sees me,”… “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (16:13)

When I am lonely or discouraged, depressed or afraid, I can look to my Heavenly Father and know He sees me. There is something very precious, very comforting about that Name.

I am not alone. The Creator see me, sees my circumstances, sees my heart. And He loves me, will never leave me, strengthens and keeps me.

I worship the God who sees me!

Genesis 14 – Be Prepared

Abram was not a soldier. He was a nomad, traveling with a bunch of people carrying all their worldly possessions, and leading their livestock, not knowing where they were heading. But when time came to go rescue Lot, Abram called up 318 trained men to go get him.

Did Abram’s readying those men for battle indicate a lack of faith in the God he followed? Or something else?

Sometimes people get so comfortable in the knowledge that “God is Sovereign” that they figure God’s will will be done with or without them; that if a person is on God’s “chosen” list, he or she will be saved whether or not I share the Gospel with them. I’m not so sure about that, according to Scripture.

Abram trained those men long before there was a hint of a battle. Then, when God called, they sprang into action, prepared to face the enemy.

We’re called to train like an athlete, or a soldier. Put on the armor of God. Fight the good fight. Pack your bags and be ready to go like the Jews at Passover. God can defeat armies, rescue lost nephews like Lot without the action of people. But He has chosen to use us instead. I wonder what story we would be reading in Genesis if Abram had decided to sit back and let God rescue Lot Himself, or if Abram had not prepared for battle in advance.

Dear one, read your Bible. Study God’s Word. Pray. Plan ahead. Be ready to share the Good News of Jesus at a moment’s notice. Then get ready. God wants to use you to win this next battle.

Genesis 12&13 – Possess It

If God gave Abram the land, why haven’t they always lived there? Does this prove Scripture can’t be trusted? God even said He was giving Abram the land forever. Is God unable to keep His promises?

Did God fail? The failure lies right smack dab in the lap of His people. God may have given them the land, but they failed to possess it. They got side tracked. They deserted God and worshiped idols. The land was their’s forever, if they’d possess it. But they didn’t possess it.

I see a New Testament parallel here. It’s salvation, bought by Jesus’ blood, a gift we all have at our fingertips. But we need to possess it. God didn’t hold His people captive in Canaan. And He doesn’t force us to accept His grace. Just like the Jews, we have to defeat the enemy, clear the land, till the soil, repent, flee the devil, grow in grace, put on that armor of God.

Then we can live forever in the land.

Genesis 11 – God’s Choice

Abram might not have been my first choice to start an entire nation of people who would be known as “the children of God.” He came from a long line of idol worshippers, he was an older gentleman married to a wife who couldn’t even have kids. But he obeyed God, and I am blessed today because he did.

God doesn’t always nudge the obvious choices into service. We look at the outward appearance. God looks at the heart. His ways are not our ways. His choices are not always what we would choose.

Don’t ever think you are too insignificant, or too uneducated, or too shy or untalented for God to do something amazing in and through you. Obey Him. Follow His lead. Get out of His way and watch what He can do with the abilities He’s given you.