2. Bear Children

Meditations on “God of Transformation”: 2:  Bear Children

Gen 11:29,30 ; 12:1,2    The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai… Now Sarai was barren; she had no children…. The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation

In the beginning of the Bible God says, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) There are a few women who, perhaps because they fear childbirth or don’t want the bother of looking after a child, or want to put a career first, don’t want children, but most women at some time or other long to have a baby, and failure or inability in this respect is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of living in this Fallen World where things go wrong and sometimes women are barren. There are some notable women of whom it was written, ‘she was barren’ – Sarai (Gen 11:30), Isaac’s wife Rebekah (Gen 25:21), Jacob’s wife Rachel (Gen 29:31), Hannah (1 Sam 1:5) and Elizabeth (Lk 1:7).

Because we have the Bible it is easy for us to see these stories and see that God turned up for each of them and enabled them to conceive, at least two of them miraculously in old age. And this is at the heart of this – God’s ability where our ability falls short. In the first meditation we saw the wonder of God breaking into the material world that He had created and deists would have us believe that once He started it all off He stood back and had nothing more to do with it, but each of these stories of these women tell a different story; they tell us of a God who intervenes in human affairs and brings about a physical change in the most intimate realm possible, that of the process of having children. Not being a woman I flounder here but I suspect that this particular ability is the very thing that goes to the heart of being a woman, the ability to bear children, and if you are a woman of child-bearing age, you are reminded of it every month and it has profound emotional effects on you. There is nothing more wonderful, and therefore when it is denied, nothing so terrible.

In only one of those women do we find the cause stated as, “the LORD had closed her womb,” (1 Sam 1:5) in the case of Hannah. We would assume, rightly I believe, that in all the other cases, it was just a case of this is what happens in the Fallen World we’ve already referred to. But that raises a second matter in respect of God. We have already noted that He steps into the affairs of mankind but now we should add a word: He steps into the affairs of sinful mankind, mankind that often suffers because of the general presence of sin in the world. God does not just sit back in heaven and grumble like a grumpy old man, “Well you brought it on yourselves.” No, he comes into this fallen world and redeems us from the effects of this fallen world. He did it in respect of all the women we mentioned above and He did it in respect of all the crowds of sick and demon possessed people that flocked to Jesus to be healed – and “he healed them all” (Mt 8:16, 12:15, 14:36). Notice the word ‘all’ there. There are many other places in the Gospels where the word is not there but implied by the way healings were reported.

With the ministry of Jesus, what was is incredible was that God incarnate, moving amongst sinful human beings did not seem to run diagnostic clinics whereby he checked to see who had fully repented of their past sins, he simply healed all who came, including the selfish and those who would not bother with him again. This is the incredible grace of this Creator who brought this world into being, knowing that having been given free will, we would use it to turn against Him and yet He carried on and did it, building in a plan to redeem us through the death of His Son, the Son who would first dispense the power of God to whoever wanted it to be healed.

This is not a God who creates the world and then stands aloof at a distance; this is a God who creates His world and then becomes intimately involved with it, interacting with and touching these physical human beings, who may or may not respond positively to Him. He has the power to change things in this physical, material realm, the same power that brought it into being and He uses it to straighten crooked lives, put back together broken lives, mend fragmented lives, and heal sick lives. He prefers our cooperation and looks for our responses of love, but clearly He acts even in the absence of that . How incredible!

In Sarai’s case He would wait until she was well past child-bearing age and was clearly incapable of having a child – and then He enabled her to have one. Having spoken to the couple about it a number of times before He did it, the story clearly shows He was wanting their faith to develop, but more than that, surely He was showing them – and us – His love for them and His power that was not merely ‘spiritual’ but which operated in this material, physical world of which we are now part.

He appears to delight in changing it, bringing change to the defective lives that are the result of the Fall, and putting them back together as they were originally designed to be. How wonderful.

Advertisements

32. God’s Time

ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.32

32. In God’s Time

Matt 2:19,20 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel , for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

Have you ever had a time in life when everything seemed to go wrong and you were left wondering whether you even had any future at all? Life is full of upheavals that sometimes we would prefer to call catastrophes. One minute everything was going fine, and then either gradually bit by bit, or even perhaps suddenly, it all started changing and you were left alone and in despair.

Well, the Bible is full of such incidents. Moses, the Prince of Egypt, was one such person. There he was; his future certain, as an adopted prince of the king of Egypt . But he’s aware that he’s different; he’s aware he’s an Israelite by birth, and one day he tries to help his birth-people and ends up killing an Egyptian. He has to flee the country and for the next forty years he is looking after sheep in the wilderness hundreds of miles away. Without doubt he must have given up any hope of any meaningful future. He would simply die as an unknown shepherd miles from anywhere. And then God turned up, and he became one of the most significant men in history!

But it doesn’t have to be forty years to feel you have no future. After the pain of personal failure, any period is too long. We don’t know for sure just how long Joseph and Mary and their baby were in Egypt, but they must have been wondering about the future, wondering what had happened. A year ago they were happily engaged in Nazareth, and now here they are hundreds of miles away in a foreign land with a tiny baby to look after. The visit of the angel to Mary was probably now over a year back and in a year your memory begins to dull, and when everything has not worked out as you expected, you can be left wondering was it all a dream – but then there is the baby!

How long will we be here? Will God speak to us again? Will it ever be safe for us to return? Surely these must have been some of the questions going through their minds. One long day followed another. Did Joseph get a job or did they just live off the gifts the wise men had brought them? This is not their land. These are not their people. What are we doing here? And then God spoke. The trouble about this is that we can go weeks or months just wondering and then, it’s as if He came suddenly, and He spoke. There is usually no warning. He just turns up and speaks. A few hours before you might have been wondering if you’ll ever hear from Him again, and then without any fanfare He speaks – and it all starts over again! Is this Him or is it wishful thinking. Joseph has another dream and the angel appears again but now to tell him it is all right to return home; it’s safe now!

Do you see this? So often we just read this story with so little thought. Oh, Joseph had another dream; how nice! Yes, but that was after days and weeks and months of uncertainty. If you think the Christian life is one of daily conversations with God, you are half right. You can talk and talk and talk (it’s called praying) but sometimes it seems like a brick wall and you hear nothing in return. Then – at just the right moment – He speaks. You’d almost given up, but He hadn’t! If you haven’t ever seen how important timing is with God, check it out – Rom 5:6, Gal 4:4, Gal 6:9, Mk 1:15, Matt 10:19, Mt 26:18, Jn 7:6,8. Jn 7:30. Oh yes, it’s all about right timing and God knows when it is, so rest in that knowledge today. Your times are in His hands. Be patient and rejoice in that!

19. A Sign

ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.19

19. A Sign for You?


Luke 2:12-14 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

There is a desire in most of us that says, “Show me, give me a sign.” We feel sufficiently insecure that we desire to be able to see, to have our way ahead lit by a sign that says, this way, it’s all right. The strange thing though, when we come to the Bible, is that God isn’t very good with signs. The shepherds were offered a sign: a baby in a manger – but that meant they had to go down to the town first to find the sign: act then get the sign.

We come to God asking for clarity, light on the path ahead, and He tells us that we are to live by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Faith in the Bible is responding to what God says, so our light is His word and that becomes a lamp to our feet (Psa 119:105), that’s why we need to read it more and more. We’re also called to be led by His Spirit (Gal 5:16,25) which again is something that happens within us, not through our eyes.

When Moses was talking with God at the burning bush, the Lord gave him a sign to prove He was with him – the promise that when he had led Israel out of Egypt, they would worship at this mountain (Sinai). In others words, when you’ve done it you’ll know it was me with you! When God speaks words of prophecy it is so often like that: He says it, you look for it, but don’t find it, He then does it and you look back and realize that it was Him. So often, it seems, God’s ‘signs’ require us to move first.

John in his Gospel speaks of the miracles that Jesus did as ‘signs’ (Jn 2:11, 4:54 etc.), but of course they were only recognized as such by those whose hearts were open and seeking. Others simply criticized and asked for more ‘signs’ (e.g. Jn 2:18). It seems again and again the Lord wants us to respond to what He says and then, and only then, it becomes clear. It’s when we step forward trusting, that a voice comes from behind us saying, “This is the way walk in it” (Isa 30:21). So if you’re looking for a sign from God, in His graciousness He may just give you one (e.g. to Gideon – Judges 6:36-40), but more often than not, He waits for you to act in faith before the sign comes.

So the angel tells them about the baby who will be God’s Chosen One, the Christ or Messiah (v.11). The fact that he’s there, as I said, will be sufficient for you to believe what I’ve said is true, is what the angel is saying. When you look, you will find – but you need to look first. That’s how it works with God – then and now!

Then it’s as if heaven couldn’t contain itself for suddenly there is a great company – very many – angels, all singing of God’s greatness. The Christmas story is littered with angelic appearances. It’s as if heaven is coming to earth to accompany the coming of the Son. Of course it wasn’t until much later that Jesus himself spoke about how he had always existed and had come down to earth from heaven (Jn 6:33,38,41,51,58). The glory that had been in heaven, now somehow compressed, was now on the earth (Phil 2:6-8). The presence of the singing angels is not the incredible thing; it’s the presence of the very Son of God who is the incredible thing, God on earth. This presence on earth of the Son was evidence of the wonder (glory) of God’s plans for mankind, peace that will be brought between God and man, through this Son. The angels are singing of the wonder that is possible for you and me – peace with God!

17. Difficult Times

ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.17

17. Difficult Times in God’s Will

Luke 2:5-7 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

We thought yesterday about the feeling of being trapped in a machine, the machine of circumstances beyond our control. Mary and Joseph are in that machine and it requires them to leave the place where they were living and go to Bethlehem, for no reason apart from the whim of the emperor!

Now the only problem about all this, is that everybody else is doing this as well, and so Bethlehem, being the home town of King David, was the home town of lots of people descended from this family line. There are lots of people travelling back to Bethlehem! And yes, you can guess it, it’s always the same, the authorities hadn’t thought about this, or hadn’t cared about it, but where was everyone to stay? Go to the Inn. Right! But unfortunately several dozen other people got there before us and so there’s no room.

Fortunately a kindly innkeeper, or more likely inn-keeper’s wife, sees Mary’s state and allows them to bed down in what we usually think was the stable round the back. It’s pretty awful, but it’s better than nothing. And then, Oh Joseph, there was a pain, and another, I’m having the baby. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse! A young girl and it’s her first child. How would you have felt? A husband with a young wife who’s having a baby that isn’t yours; how would you have felt? This is not a good day!

Have you caught something of the picture? This is not a fun day! Looked on from a purely human standpoint, from the standpoint of Mary and Joseph, there have definitely been better days!!! We tend to forget all this when we see the children acting it out in the school nativity play. From a human standpoint, what has just happened? Another baby has just arrived in the world. Goodness knows how many other babies arrived in the world on that day or night. Ah, but that’s the point; this isn’t just another baby. What we have missed in the awfulness of these circumstances is that God has just appeared in the world in human form for the very first time ever.

Now that is such a staggering statement that it leaves most of us spluttering over the impossibility of it, or over our incapability to grasp it, but that, the Bible very clearly tells us, is what happened! In a way that totally denies our intellect, somehow, this tiny defenceless baby lying wrapped up in a manger, in the straw, is God. Is he totally God? Well yes he is, but somehow not, because God is all-powerful, all knowing, all-everything and this tiny baby – for the moment at least – isn’t, or certainly doesn’t appear to be! That’s what makes this a mystery, because this little baby that is God in human form, is going to grow up and show himself to be very different from us, is going to provide us with so much evidence that, for any open, thinking person, there is no room for doubt – this is God! But he doesn’t look like it at the moment. The lesson? When God leads you into apparently small and ordinary events, even seemingly bad-news-day events, be careful, they may have earth shattering consequences – you just don’t know with God! What may seem a nightmare may turn out to be the most staggeringly wonderful day of your life!