Meditations in the life of Abraham : 17. Reassurance
Gen 13:3,4 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.
Whether or not the famine still persisted inCanaan, is not stated, but whatever the state of the land, having been expelled from Egypt, Abram returns to it. From the area referred to as the Negev in the south of the land, he makes his way northwards again. Remember he is a nomad and as yet has not settled anywhere permanently. Eventually he comes to Bethel and then a little further on, to the place between Bethel and Ai where he had previously set up his tent, built and altar and sought or called on the name of the Lord. (see 12:8) The last time he had been there he had called on the Lord, and we noted that that was the first time he had taken to initiative to seek the Lord; previously it had all been the Lord taking the initiative.
So here he is, having returned from Egypt where, quite clearly, all had not gone well. He had tried to deceive Pharaoh and because of the Lord (presumably) been found out and sent away. He does not leave Egypt as an honoured guest but more in disgrace. He had lied to Pharaoh and Pharaoh had suffered as a result of it and then ejected him from the country. It had not been a glorious experience. I wonder what Abram now felt? He could have felt thoroughly bad about it, more that he had been found out and sent away in disgrace than anything else perhaps. He is also a young believer in God and therefore it might be natural to wonder if God had now rejected him for that episode.
However if he had felt that, then it would be unlikely that he would have gone back to Bethel and called on the name of the Lord. No, for some reason, he has sufficient confidence in the Lord that he goes back to the place where he last called on Him and calls again. It is like he is reassuring himself that all is still well between he and the Lord. If he had thought he was in trouble with the Lord he would not have gone looking for Him. Now of course it is possible that he did not feel bad about his actions in Egypt. After all he had only treated Sarai as any man of that time would have treated his wife. In modern eyes it wasn’t good, but perhaps in their eyes, it was no problem. Whatever the truth of what he was feeling, he comes back to this place where he had built an altar and calls on the Lord.
Now from all our speculations above, we have sought to show that there could be a variety of ways he comes back here and calls on the Lord. After all, what does it mean to “call on the Lord”? It may mean simply to seek Him – “Lord are you there?” It may mean to call on Him with questions: “Lord why did you bring me to a place that has a famine? Did I do wrong there in Egypt, or even by going down to Egypt?” It may mean he comes in contrition: “Lord I’m sorry I seem to have lost contact with you; I haven’t heard from you. Are you still there? I’m sorry about Egypt.”
When we come to the Lord, there are therefore a whole variety of ways that we may approach Him. We may worship Him, praise Him, seek Him for answers, seek Him for forgiveness; there are so many possibilities. And those possibilities depend on what has been happening to us and, even more, how we perceive what has been happening to us. It maybe, therefore, that we approach the Lord in the wrong way. We may come demanding of Him with questions, whereas if we saw the situation clearly, we should come to Him in repentance or with worship. The truth is that often we may come to God in a wrong way because we simply don’t see clearly.
Now here is the reassurance: when your young children get all confused and mixed up, do you chide them or do you love them and seek to help them understand? If we do the latter with our children, won’t the Lord do it more? But you may feel guilty about your wrong approach or your lack of understanding. Isn’t that why Jesus died on the Cross, for just these sorts of things? Oh no, we don’t steal, commit adultery or murder, but our ‘sins’ or our ‘wrongs’ are just as real and, although they are of a completely different form, they still end up in the same category – falling short of the glory of God and in the sin basket!
The more I look around the Christian scene and the more I listen, the more sure I am that we so often get it wrong or opt for second best, or opt for human endeavour rather than God’s leading and grace. it is so often a confusing world and so often things are unclear, and so often we make mis-judgments and get it wrong, but that is why Jesus died for us and the result is that the Father will not cast us off. That’s what this story about Abram declares. As we go further on with it, we’ll see the Lord speaking and speaking again and again. There are big gaps but He’s still there for His man. In this instance, referred to in our verses above, Abram calls on the Lord but appears to hear nothing back, but the silence is not a sign of God’s rejection. Remember that on the quiet days or weeks!