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Archive for Abraham

A Cosmic Chess Match

Some five thousand years had passed since God had pronounced His judgments upon Satan and Eve for their part in the Fall. God said that the seed of the woman would one day kill Satan (Genesis 3:15). This motivated a cosmic chess match. Satan immediately began to make his moves to keep this special seed from coming.

Cain killed Abel, the line through which the promised seed was to come (Genesis 4:8). God countered by moving Seth into that position. Satan’s next effort was to infiltrate the world and physically corrupt the human race, making it impossible for the seed to come as a human being (Gen. 6). God countered by selecting Noah and his family to preserve the human race so that His seed could come.

Satan moved by maneuvering events that caused Sarah to end up in Pharaoh’s harem (Genesis 12:15). Thinking she was Abraham’s sister, Pharaoh gifted Abraham with male and female servants. God countered by striking Pharaoh’s family with plagues (Gen. 12:17). Satan moved in stealth. The couple left Egypt with Pharaoh’s gifts in tow, one a servant girl named Hagar. Abraham and Sarah left Egypt, but a small bit of Egypt left with them (Gen. 12:20). God countered. Hagar was in God’s plan all along. Ishmael and Isaac struggled early in life, and they have struggled throughout history (Gen. 21:9). Ishmael, the oldest, was always hazing Isaac. The Arabs are constantly tormenting the Jews.

Satan moved. Pharaoh attempted to destroy all the male children in Egypt (Ex. 1:15–22). God countered by having Moses hidden from Pharaoh by his mother and then saved in a miraculous way (Ex. 1:22). Satan moved by pushing the Jews against the Red Sea, standing the chance to be annihilated by Pharaoh (Ex. 14:19–26). God countered and Pharaoh’s army was buried alive.

Satan moved.  Jehoshaphat’s son arranged a marriage between Jehoram and Athaliah, Jezebel’s daughter. Jezebel attempted to kill all of the sons in the line of Christ. God countered! Little Joash was miraculously hidden and saved. He was the only male survivor in the line of David (2 Chron. 22:10–12).

Satan moved!  Haman attempted to exterminate Esther and all the Jews (Esther 7:7). God countered by sending Esther to talk to the king. Haman lost! Back and forth the chess match would continue. Shortly after the birth of King Jesus in Bethlehem, Satan made another attempt to intercept and kill the seed of the woman. God moved!

After Jesus was born wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1–2). Satan countered! Herod the great was an Ishmaelite Arab born in Edom. He led Herod into Judea, near Bethlehem – to intercept the King. Herod was ruthless, suspicious, and very cruel. He murdered his wife, his own mother, his oldest son, and his two sons. Caesar Augustus of Rome was recorded as saying that it was much safer to be Herod’s pig (uous) than to be his son (huios).

Herod was ruling when wise men (Gentiles from Medo-Persia) came to find where the Christ child was to be born. They asked where the king of the Jews was being born. Herod heard the words “king of the Jews,” and he immediately set in motion a plan. He asked these Easterners to go and find the king and come back and tell him so he could go “worship him.” God counter moved by warning these wise men of Herod’s intent, and they went home another way.

Satan moved once more! Realizing that he had been duped, Herod was furious. He passed an edict to kill all the male children in the Bethlehem area that were about the age of Jesus. God counter moved. He warned Joseph to take his young family down into Egypt for a short vacation. There they stayed until Herod’s death. Just as Jochebed hid little Moses, and little Joash was hidden, Mary and Joseph hid the Christ child. God is still using Arabs as His divine instigators, antagonists used to pressure the Jews to recognize that Jesus is their Messiah.

Jesus began His special ministry of presenting the kingdom to Israel at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23). His ministry is clearly marked out in Matthew with His words to the Jews: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). This was the kingdom that had been promised throughout the Old Testament. The angel Gabriel’s words to Mary are worth pondering. He told her that she would conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son and would call His name Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31–33). Stay safe and stay tuned.

Father of the Faithful

Abraham was destined to become the father of the faithful. His life began millennia ago with God’s sovereign call. During Noah’s day, the Flood destroyed the earth and a sin-infected, genetically corrupt civilization. God’s plan to bring His promised Seed into the world started over with Noah and his family. Because of the depravity of humankind from the indwelling sin of Adam, this new race of people quickly began to spiral downward and will once again be judged by God – not with water but with fire (2 Pet. 3:6-10).

It seems as though God’s incredible promise that the “seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent” will never happen. God used Noah to give us a small glimpse of hope. Noah said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant” (Gen. 9:26). The Bible emphasizes that Shem’s God is the “Lord.” The word Lord (all caps) speaks of Yahweh, the self-existent great “I am,” of the Old Testament (Ex. 3:13-15), who is none other than Kurios, the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament (Jn. 8:56-59; Jn. 10:30).  

Noah was predicting that his son, Shem, would be connected to the promise-keeping God, just like Adam’s son Seth had been. Shem became God’s candle in the dark on this side of the Flood. The Genesis writer is saying that Shem would worship the living God and not the polytheism around him. It would be through his line that Messiah, the promised Seed of the woman, would come. Shem’s line led to a man named Terah, a pagan moon worshiper.

Terah lived seventy years and became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran (Gen. 11:10–32). Out of the three, God chose Abram to continue the line to the Messiah.  God also chose Abram to teach us to live by faith, not by sight.  Abram means “exalted father” or “father of the high place.” That name fit him well. He was likely – like his dad – a leader of pagan worship.  God’s call began with the unimpressive words “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). Abram, at seventy-five years of age, gathered all his belongings, took his family, and launched out into the unknown. Talk about faith. God’s plan from the jump was to teach Abraham that no matter what this world affords, he was to trust totally in Him, the Giver of the gifts. As long as we have the Giver, we have the gifts.  

The promise of a “land that I will show you” is extremely important, even in this day.  God’s promise of a special piece of real estate has been severely underestimated by many godly Bible teachers and true believers. It has been over four thousand years since God called this moon-worshiping pagan from Chaldea to go to another desert place, the land of Canaan, yet this land is still in the picture. In fact, it seems to pop up everywhere all the time. The conflict surrounding this land is played out on the stage of world history and the noise from our media today.

God’s promise to Abram was “I will bless you.” The word “bless” (beracah) means “I will do good toward you.” Abram would have a special relationship with the living God. He would enjoy great wealth and peace and happiness, even though he lived in a lowly tent his entire life. This would not be very impressive unless one realized that Abraham lived 175 years. Oh!

Abraham’s tent became a very important object lesson. A tent is a temporary dwelling place. God taught Abram every day, with every entrance and exit from that tent, that his life on this earth was fleeting; this world was not to be his permanent home. He was, as the song says, “just a passin’ through.” Abraham waited for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). Abraham was not to grow fond of this world’s stuff (1 Jn.2:15-17). Like my father in the Lord, Nap Clark, so often said, “Love people and use stuff, not the other way around.” People are permanent, stuff is temporary.

Also, a tent was not a good fortress against things that could hurt him: the weather, critters of every kind, viruses, and enemies everywhere. They could easily break through the walls and take or destroy everything that he had. He had to depend solely upon God for protection – or not.  

Finally, a tent was intended to instill great humility. There is not much to brag about while living in a tent. It would be difficult even to hang the pictures. God used the tent in order that Abraham’s life would glorify (shed light upon) Him. A correct knowledge of God and a personal relationship with Him make us exceedingly wealthy and happy (and safe) no matter what our physical circumstances might be. And by the way, did I mention that we all live in a tent – it’s our physical body (2 Cor. 5:1).  This world is not our home, either.  Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

I Am the Door

January 24, 2015

18_the-sheepfoldMoses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:13-14)

God revealed Himself to Moses as “I Am.” Jesus Christ also identified Himself as “I Am.” The Jews were trying to embarrass Him by alluding to His virgin birth. They said to Him, “We know who our father is. It is Abraham. Who is your father?” Jesus blew them away with these words, “Your father Abraham saw my day and was glad.”

Their response was understandable. They answered, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answer was absolutely amazing. “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” He said that He existed before Abraham! He was exposing His true identity as the God-Man by making known His eternal nature (John 8:37-59).

Jesus used His I am identity to make clear seven of His most incredible characteristics. We saw in the previous blog that He referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Looking further into His role as the Good Shepherd, we find this statement from His lips, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he shall be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

Shepherds in Israel were different from those in the rest of the world. Each shepherd had only a small flock of sheep to care for. They did not use dogs to control their sheep; the shepherds took that responsibility themselves. A single shepherd cared for a flock of sheep throughout the sheep’s life. In time, the shepherd developed a special relationship with his sheep. Each sheep would be named and would come to recognize the voice of its’ owner. Jesus knows His sheep by name, and His sheep recognize His voice.

Shepherds would often pool their money and build a large sheepfold in a city to house their sheep. They would then hire a person, a hireling, to watch over the flock through the night. Though the hireling may sincerely care for the sheep, he did not care as much as the owner. If the sheep were threatened by danger from thieves or predators, the hireling may decide to abandon the sheep. The owner, on the other hand, would most likely stay and defend the sheep, even to death. Jesus claimed to be this kind of shepherd of His flock. He would lay down His life for His sheep (John 10:15).

When out in the countryside looking for pasture, the shepherd would build a temporary sheepfold for His sheep. He would use whatever materials were available. Sometimes the fence would be made of wood and rocks but most likely large rocks. The sheepfold would have a single door. This way the shepherd could count the sheep as they went in and out. During the night, the shepherd would sleep in the door. The shepherd would literally “become” the door. Any predator or thief would have to come through the shepherd to get to the sheep, and the sheep would have to come by the shepherd to get out. This way the sheep could be kept securely in the pen.

This gives deep meaning to the words of Christ, “I am the door of the sheepfold. He who believes in Me will be saved and go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved. He is the door that leads to eternal life. The believer entering through this Door will go into forever life and be protected and preserved by the Good Shepherd. Going out to find pasture means that the Good Shepherd will feed and nurture the believer eternally. The Lord Jesus Christ is truly the Door. All who enter by Him shall never want.

“They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”  (Revelation 7:17).

Divine Antagonists

September 19, 2012

As an introduction to this blog, read the article, “The Isaac Connection,” on our Glimpses of Grace webpage.

Many unbelievers want to know, “Why does a loving God seemingly allow bad things to happen to good people?” My go-to passage for this is Genesis 50:20. Joseph asserted, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Joseph’s life was enveloped in the extraordinary. He was the object of jealous revenge from his brothers; his parents misunderstood him; he was kidnapped and sold into slavery and taken far from his home. He was then lied about to his grieving father; his employer falsely accused him; and he was cast into prison for years for something he did not do. If there had been anyone who had the absolute right to question the works of a loving God, it was Joseph. How did Joseph respond? He summed it all up with the words “you sold . . . God sent.” These words shout to me, proclaiming God’s amazing plan to use events that appear bad to us in order to bring about our ultimate good and to fulfill His ultimate purpose (Romans 8:28).

Israel’s leaders rejected Jesus as their king. Our Lord’s response?  He clearly told them that they would not see Him again until the time comes when they would say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:35). What will God use to move an entire generation of unbelieving Jews to finally accept Him?  A more pointed question might be, “What could cause an entire generation of Jewish people to be born again in a day?” (Romans 11:26-27). Centuries ago God amazingly brought in a group of divine antagonists to pressure His chosen people through intimidation to finally come to grips with the truth that the Carpenter from Nazareth is indeed their promised Messiah.

God blessed Abraham and Sarah by giving them the desire of their heart – Isaac. He was their miracle child, born as the result of God’s promise. Sarah and Abraham had mudded the waters by trying to help God help them. Sarah suggested that Abraham have a son by her handmaid, Hagar. The result was an apparent disaster! Ishmael was born to Abraham and Hagar. Sarah soon became very uneasy with the outcome.  She noticed that Ishmael, the older, would pick on Isaac, the younger. The text simply reads, “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing” (Genesis 21:9). This was no ordinary horseplay between two brothers; it was hazing with a divine purpose. Ishmael and his biological mother realized that they were not a highly regarded part of Abraham’s family.  Ishmael evidently took vengeance upon Isaac at every private opportunity. In this case, he was busted!

Sarah insisted that Abraham cast out the bondwoman and her son. The reason? They will have no part in our family’s future (Genesis 21:10).  What a cruel thing to do! Abraham was understandably upset. He loved Ishmael as any father would love a son from his own flesh. God instructed Abraham to listen to his wife! “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That was all the explanation God deemed necessary. He promised Abraham that He would make Ishmael’s family into a great nation.

Paul alludes to the Ishmael-Isaac hazing scene in his letter to the Galatians. “He who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’” (Galatians 4:29-30)

That little phrase “even so it is now” jumps out at me. Catch this glimpse. Paul recognized that during his day God was in the process of fulfilling his promise to Abraham to make Ishmael’s line into a great nation of people – the Arabs. And the same persecution exhibited by young Ishmael toward his younger brother was being multiplied through his family line toward the entire Jewish family.  This persecution has increased in intensity through the centuries and is stronger than ever today. One day it will peak and, along with other factors, be used by God in an amazing way to help motivate the Jews to cry out for their Messiah to return. He will return to perform the greatest rescue mission in human history.

God always has a reason for everything that He ordains, no matter how awkward it may appear to us. The Arabs mean their intimidation for malice, but God will use it in order to accomplish His ultimate good. God, you are amazing!

We will discuss more divine antagonists in the next blog!