Snapshots: Day 30

Snapshots: Day 30

The Snapshot: “seven years of famine began.” Living in a Fallen World is often confusing. Israel has lost his favourite son, and now famine threatens to wipe them out. It feels a hard world – but that is without understanding what God is doing. The ‘dead son’ will be raised to life and be their savior, but that is still the future. Sometimes the sun shines brightest before the storm that brings life to the desert. When Jesus entered Jerusalem they shouted, “Hosanna!”, Lord save us. A week later, others cried out, “Crucify him.” It was a confusing time, a terrible time, and it seems no one could see the glory of the future behind the black thunder clouds.  But God has a plan so rest in that truth, and it’s always a plan for good, our good. How incredible.

Further Consideration: Whether we like it or not – and I know some people who think it is a cop out – the world we live in is broken, dysfunctional or as we usually put it – fallen. It is not as it was when God first made it. When sin came in, God stepped back and said the equivalent of, “OK, you want to run it you way, I’ll let you do that.” The result was that sin prevailed, and the world went wrong. Sickness accompanied sin, and that included sickness in the plant life and in nature at large, which included the weather and the way the planet works generally.

Thus sometimes there were (and are) famines because rain doesn’t fall, seeds don’t germinate and so on. If we blame God for famines, we must blame Him for giving us free will, not that He made us do wrong, but allowed us the opportunity, and everything else followed. So that’s the world we live in – where it goes wrong – but the amazing thing is that God didn’t step right of the equation, He is still there when we turn to Him and He is available to help. That doesn’t mean He will immediately jump in and do what we want and reverse the working of the fallen world, but it does mean that there are times when He sees that that is possible without upsetting the balance of our free will.

But sometimes He holds back because He sees that allowing the brokenness to continue means He can use it for a greater purpose. Now when it comes to the seven years of famine above, God has seen (and told Abram about it) that this can be just one link in a chain that results in Israel ending up in Egypt. There, because they do not leave when they could early in the day, they settle, end up slaves and need that most incredible event, the Exodus, which brings judgment on sin, reveals the power of the Lord and the uniqueness of Israel. This famine is just one link in that chain, but Jacob didn’t see that yet, and so often we don’t see the fact of present difficulties being a link that will lead to something amazing. Patience and grace needed.

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Snapshots: Day 29

Snapshots: Day 29

The Snapshot: “a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”  We might think it is a rare thing to be commended by God for wrestling with Him, but when the man in question insists, “I will not let you go unless you bless me,” that pleases God, for that is exactly what is on His heart for mankind – that we cling to Him to be blessed, to be saved, to be redeemed, to receive the blessing that only He can impart. We will come out of the wrestling match changed, perhaps in a way we hadn’t envisaged and indeed don’t fully appreciate, but from then on we will never forget God and He will always be our first port of call in the struggles of life. No longer will we be plotting our own well-being for we will have His blessing and will never be the same again,.

Further Consideration: Wrestling with God? That needs some thinking about because Jacob was commended by God for wrestling with Him until He blessed him, but not all ‘wrestling’ is like that. Perhaps the greatest example of wrestling with God where the objective of the wrestler was seek to get victory over God for no other reason that pure self-centredness, is that of Pharaoh opposing Moses in Exodus. No of course it wasn’t a literal wrestling match of Pharaoh with God but Pharaoh’s attitude, his words and his actions, are clearly as much a struggle against God to get his own way, as if it has been a literal match.

God is seeking to get Pharaoh to submit to His will and we see it is a totally unbalanced contest because He is so infinitely more stronger than Pharaoh, but Pharaoh doesn’t believe that. But then that is why unbelievers wrestle with God, resist Him, and try and get their own way; they just don’t realize exactly who it is they are resisting. If they realized the truth they would give in instantly.

But when it comes to believers, they sense something and, I would suggest, it is something inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is that God can bless them, can answer a prayer – and wants to, if only they will ask and ask.

The problem is that very often we just don’t believe that God desires good for us; it is one of the offshoots of being a sinner, redeemed, yes, but still tainted with these things. And so it is that we catch the truth and pray it, and God coyishly holds back before answering. We pause but sense it is right, this thing, so we pray again, and again, and as we pray we come to see that this IS the truth, this IS what God wants and so we pray with more urgency. I will not let you go until you bless me!  Jesus taught, “Ask – and keep on asking (the verb tense)- and it will be given you.” (Mt 7:7) Why? For our benefit so we will come to realize the truth of what we are asking for.

Snapshots: Day 28

Snapshots: Day 28

The Snapshot: “so he proceeded to bless him.”  A blessing is a prophetic decree of good from heaven. It comes from God, touches a heart, is declared and applied by God. It is not a wish but a declaration of the good will of God and is, in one sense, general for all of us (His desire for good for His children) but in another sense unique (what He sees He wants to do for ‘me’ uniquely). We impart a blessing only as the Holy Spirit enables us; it is not a case of just wishing someone well, but an opening of the door of heaven for the good to be poured forth as he desires. How amazing that He wants to involve us, is limited by us, because He wants us to be the bringers of His good to His world. Lord, please make me sensitive of your will for those I love that I may bless them.

Further Consideration: Over the years I have had the impression that most Christians know little of blessings and curses. The classic passages of the Law that describe them are Deut 28 for blessings following obedience, then curses for disobedience. However, blessings start in Gen 1 when God blessed the living creatures (v.22) and then mankind (v.28). In each case ‘blessings’ are God’s decrees for good. In each case the blessing is “to be fruitful” and this is also seen when He blesses Noah (Gen 9:1). A beautiful outworking of this is seen in the case of Isaac: “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him.” (Gen 26:12)

Somehow this understanding has been communicated to Isaac and so it is no surprise when he blesses who he thinks is his eldest son, but turns out to be Jacob. He clearly holds a blessing in the highest degree for once he has spoken it, he knows he cannot either withdraw it or repeat it in respect of Esau (see Gen 27:34-37).

A blessing is thus equivalent to a prophecy and of course genuine prophecies always originate in heaven, in God’s heart, and not merely in our hearts. As we catch a sense of the Holy Spirit’s prompting we may then utter the blessing that we sense the Lord wants to impart to the person before us, and life is changed.

I will often simply say to someone, “The Lord bless you,” because I know it is the Lord’s desire to bless each one of us. My daughter reminded me not long ago that she grew up through a childhood that knew me bringing God’s blessing to them. Whenever we do that we are reiterating the Lord’s desire to bring good to that person, and that opens the way for Him to do just that. We don’t do it by habit or to control but simply when we are absolutely sure that God wants good for His people.  The more we know Him, the more sure we will be of that and be able to be His channels of blessing to others.

Snapshots: Day 27

Snapshots: Day 27

The Snapshot: “His brother came out grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.” Perceptions, hopes and dreams, all wrong, all muddled, all forgetting God. Here’s the first twin – he will be great. No he won’t. Here’s the second twin, a grabber, a twister, a schemer, a hopeless case. True but that’s forgetting God again. He knows what we’re really like, He knows what He can do with us, that’s why we’re chosen, because He looked into the future and saw what we could become. Jacob is going to become a great Patriarch, a godly man with God’s heart who will prophesy over all his family with amazing insight. We all start by being ‘schemers’, plotting our own well-being, and God enables us to become something quite glorious, His children. How wonderful. Thank you, Lord.

Further Consideration: Yesterday I sought to encourage us to come into understanding God’s will. Many years ago my wife and I sensed we should move to the town where we now are. We sought to do so but it just wasn’t happening. Eventually I took a piece of paper and made a list of twelve reasons why I felt we needed to be in that new place, and I took it to the Lord and said, “Lord, why aren’t you letting us move? These are the reasons we need to be over there.” Quick as a shot came back from heaven, “Now you understand I will move you.” We were in within three months. Forty years later we’re still here.

So often we see the circumstances and stick with them and see no further. We ‘caught’ a sense of needing to move but it took a while to truly understand what was on God’s heart. But I say again, so often we ‘see’ with our eyes and either simply accept the status quo of what we see, or misunderstand what we see because we have not consulted God. The situation involving Jacob is strange.

You see Rebekah shows herself to be a godly woman because, after twenty years pass and she eventually finds herself pregnant and there is a heaving going on inside, we read, “she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord,” (Gen 25:22) and the Lord told her, “Two nations are in your womb ….   and the older will serve the younger.” (Gen 25:23) so when Esau came out first followed by Jacob grasping his heel, she clearly didn’t tell Isaac (or he ignored her) because they did not take on board the fact that Jacob would become the leader of the two, and thus they gave him a name that stuck – grasper, twister, deceiver. He certainly lived up to that name until he ended wrestling with God and was changed.

But do we misread the situation, do we fail to seek God for understanding and clarity? How much do we let such things dictate life, or do we let prophecy direct it and rejoice and go along with it?

Snapshots: Day 26

Snapshots: Day 26

The Snapshot: “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife”. Another childless couple? History repeating itself? But thank goodness for a godly husband who prayed for his wife. But he prayed for twenty years!!!! Why did he have to wait for so long? Mysteries that will remain mysteries until we get to heaven and get answers. Until then I must learn to trust, trust that God never ever makes mistakes. Until then I must learn my part as I weave my way through the mysteries of life – with Him. Can I learn to persevere in prayer, keeping hope alive? Can I learn to trust while waiting, come to a place of complete peace in the knowledge of His wisdom and love? Is this my part as I confront some of the pains of living in this Fallen World? Lord, I receive your grace for this moment today.

Further Consideration: Prayer is one of the strangest features in the life of a Christian. I don’t mean the ‘prayers’ found in the ‘Book of Common Prayer’ but those that don’t seek to cover all the theological bases well, as do the prayers in that book that help remind us of the truths of the Faith. No, the prayers I have in mind are those that pour out of the heart that might so often summed up as, “God, please help!”

The difficulties are that such prayers may come out of total selfishness that add the word ‘me’ to that summary prayer.   Such prayer often forgets that Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Mt 21:22) and “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (Jn 14:13) So belief that we are asking in line with Jesus will, what he wants to happen, is key to seeing answers.

So I wonder what Isaac prayed, because we’re not told in detail, simply that he was forty when he married Rebekah and sixty when she had her children (Gen 25:20,26). Twenty years of married life and no child, so we can assume that perhaps he was wondering if he was having to walk the same path as his father, and perhaps he was growing desperate – so he prayed and prayed. Was he praying in line with God’s will? Most definitely. Why? Because he would have known of the number of times God had said to his father that He would make a great nation out of him, and that was not out of anyone other than through Isaac (see Gen 17:15,16).

Have you and I entered into everything the Lord has for us, have we got all the Lord wants for us? Perhaps He is waiting for us to come to that understanding so that we pray for what we have come to realize is God’s greater will for us. Tomorrow I’ll give an instance of this but for now, check it out, has God got more for you that you only half apprehend? When you pray it becomes clearer – then it comes!

Snapshots: Day 25

Snapshots: Day 25

The Snapshot: “get a wife for my son Isaac.”  An old man looking after his son, conscious of his background, his heritage and his promises, called to be distinct, called to be a special people, but my son has no wife here. Wisdom & faithfulness: send my servant to homeland, trusting God to provide – and He did. How many look at the circumstances and think this is impossible, I’ll let the world provide – and miss the blessing of God in a third-best choice. Impatience and the foolishness of not talking to God about it, and so third best comes back to bite us. But even then He remains the God of Redemption who will continue to work in my circumstances to unravel them and teach me more about His love so eventually I will learn to trust Him. Why does it take so long?

Further Consideration: The amazing thing I think we so often miss in this part of Abraham’s story (Gen 24), is the way he has caught something of who he and his family now is. He was called from Ur to the Promised Land and there, after years of waiting he received his promised son. He had received a prophetic word about his family leaving this land but coming back in a little over four hundred years’ time (see Gen 15:13-16). He knew the people of this present land were not his people, clearly not people who knew the God he was getting to know.

But then, as the years pass, he realizes his promised son needs a wife if he is to fulfil the word that Abraham’s family would eventually grow to numbers that could only be likened to the sand on the seashore. It has to start with one, his son, and so his son needs a wife, but surely not one from the people of this land who seem utterly ungodly. What is the answer? How can he provide a wife for his son who will appreciate this calling to be a special people, a wife who will be sympathetic to this understanding and be willing to accept that understanding?

The answer has got to be to send his servant back to his old home. Nahor had been the younger brother of Abram (Gen 11:27) and had obviously formed a settlement back in Mesopotamia where Abram had come from, and it is to that town that the servant went (Gen 24:10) to see if there anyone in the wider family who could be Isaac’s wife.

What an example of consistent faith! Do you and I know who we are? Do we realize the wonder of being part of the family of God, a family that can never be at ease with others outside it? (Hence Paul’s instructions – 2 Cor 6:14). Do we accept singleness for those children we love or do we pray for God to provide as wonderfully for them as He did for Isaac so the family would not be polluted by the thinking of Canaan but would remain true to God?

Snapshots: Day 24

Snapshots: Day 24

The Snapshot: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac.” You are a God like all the other gods who demand child sacrifice? No I am not. Then why do you want me to kill Isaac? I don’t. But you said….  I simply said take him. But you said sacrifice him? I want you to be willing to give him up. But isn’t that the same as killing him? No, I simply want you to learn to trust me. And you will raise him from the dead? If that’s how you want to see it. Very well, here he is. Stop. But you said…. No, I said learn to trust me with those most precious to you. Then you don’t want me to kill him? Of course not, I said that. But…. Don’t you realize I love him more than you do? But…. Hold all my gifts to you lightly, don’t make them more than me, otherwise you will cheapen them. What?

Further Consideration: Our problem, so often, is that we don’t realize how much God loves us and our loved ones. A good number of years ago, when our three children were young (they are now in their late thirties) my wife had an accident. I will spare her blushes by not telling you what happened but she was bleeding – badly. We put a towel against the cut and rushed her to hospital. In the Accident and Emergency dept they instantly saw there was a big problem and immediately started work on her while I was asked to wait outside. Their problem was that they could not stop her bleeding. She had cut an artery and nothing they could do would stop it.

In a semi-unconscious state she heard their desperate urgency and realized she could be dying. Lying there while they sought to stop the bleeding she prayed and said, “But Lord, what about my three children, who will look after them?” (I could have felt offended about this except that I was passed it at that point and anyway didn’t know until afterwards what she had prayed). But as she prayed, asking for help, she very clearly heard the Lord who said, “Don’t you realize that I love them and care for them even more than you do?” And that was it. The bleeding stopped, crisis over, but a changed wife.

God did NOT want Isaac dead; He just wanted Abraham (and us) to learn something. At the end of it, Abraham named the place, “The Lord will provide.” (Gen 22:14) Here’s the thing, Mount Moriah where this happened (v.2) is according to 2 Chron 3:1, Jerusalem, the vicinity of Calvary where another son was sacrificed – for you and me. God doesn’t want your death or mine, Jesus has already given himself in our place, to carry our sin, so that we can carry on living – for ever! Some are revolted by the picture of Jesus dying for them but it is only pride that keeps us from facing our need and our hopelessness and then, as a drowning person grabbing a straw, we accept the Cross.