Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bible in a Year - Day 8

Genesis 20, 21 & 22; Matthew 7

Today we see God's faithfulness. His faithfulness in keeping promises, His faithfulness to provide and His faithfulness when we fail Him.

In Genesis 20 we once again see Abraham failing to trust God to protect him. Despite God's repeated promise to give him a son by Sarah, Abraham worries that she will be taken from him and that he will be killed. He falls back on his old trick of lying about her being his wife. This isn't surprising. The truly amazing part is that God remains faithful to him. God intends to keep His promise - so much so that he prevents Abimelek from being able to perform sexually, thus preventing any doubt over whose child Sarah will carry. He continues to acknowledge Abraham when his behaviour is so embarrassing. What a poor witness Abraham is, what a faithless man. Abimelek - the pagan - is more upright, honest and God-fearing than Abraham at this point. And yet, God still calls Abraham a prophet, still protects him and still listens to his prayers. Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again. (Genesis 20:17)

What we learn here is that it is God's faithfulness that saves us, not our own. We see God's grace at work in Abraham's life. This believer stumbles, but he is secure in God's promise. Our failures do not cause God to desert us.
This is the eternal security of the believer. Once saved, we are saved for good, even when our behaviour doesn't live up to that. This is Grace.

In Genesis 21 we finally see the promised son:
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. (Genesis 21:1-2)
God said He would do something and in His loving faithfulness He did it. Several years ago, when I was single and had not even a glimpse of a man on the horizon, God promised me that I would get married and He gave me the date. 19th December 2009. I claimed that promise. And, at the very time God had promised me, I did get married. 19th December 2009. What a faithful God we have!
God was faithful to keep His promise to Abraham, but He also remembered Ishmael, because He loved Abraham:
"I will make the son of the servant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:13) and even though Hagar and Ishmael had to be sent away, God still cared for them.

The next part of the story is a bit that I struggle with. Why would a loving God ask someone to sacrifice their son to Him? Surely not sacrificing children was something that set God's people apart from the pagan tribes around them? I suppose what we have to remember is that God knew that the sacrifice would not happen, that He was going to provide an alternative. He was teaching Abraham a lesson.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)
That Abraham was able to offer his son - his only hope of being the father of a great nation - as a sacrifice, showed that He believed and trusted God to keep His promise. He has moved on and matured in the space of a few years. He knew now that even if he gave up Isaac, God would provide again to keep His promise. God knew Abraham's heart, but I don't think Abraham did. I think God was showing Abraham that he was capable of trusting Him. Sometimes God sends us somewhere, or asks us to do something, that makes no sense to us. It's only afterwards that we realise what God has taught us, what we have learnt about ourselves. God is faithful to provide for Abraham here. In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us more about God's faithful provision: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7) 
This doesn't mean that anything we ask for we will get. What I think it means is that when we ask Jesus to come to us He will; when we knock at the door of salvation, it will be opened and we will be welcomed in. I do struggle with this verse though. Why is it that so many things I pray about don't turn out the way I hope they will? Why don't some people get healed when others do? Why do some situations never seem to turn good? We can be asking for what we believe are good and God-aligned things and not receive. I hope one day I will understand this. What I do know though, is that God is good and He loves us, and that His understanding is far, far above mine. And He longs to do good for us: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

I love the following verse: Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6) 

This is one I think so many people need to hear and take to heart. Our God loves us. We are His special creations. We are worth so much. And yet, so many of us are willing to give ourselves away too easily. We do ourselves down; we let other people damage us. Take sex, for instance. Our bodies are precious, and yet our culture tells us to share them with anyone and everyone. Virginity has become something to be ashamed of. But it shouldn't be. God loves us and created sex to be between one man and one woman to save us from the hurt of broken relationship after broken relationship; to protect us from giving parts of ourselves away over and again until we are empty shells. Don't give dogs what is sacred - wait for the man, the woman who deserves you and give it only to them.

And to sum up, our loving God's ultimate command: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

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