37. God who is Righteous (2)

Getting to Know God Meditations:  37. God who is Righteous (2)

Psa 11:7 For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice;

Job 37:23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.

Doing all things well? The complaints that come from the grumbling, critical and so often ignorant-of-the-Bible atheists, is that God is harsh and unkind and spiteful. I really don’t know what Bible they are reading – if only they would read – for the Bible I have before me shows a very different God. Perhaps it is all a matter of perspective! The God I see does all things well, not perhaps as we would do things, but He does them far better than anything we could do if we were masters of the universe. Yes, I understand that at first sight some of His actions appear ‘different’ – I am not going to use any stronger negative word because that would only show our folly in misunderstanding. In this study I want to look at a couple of incidents from the Old Testament, and then in the next study, incidents from the New Testament.

Following the Fall: I used to think that what followed the Fall was tough going for Adam and Eve, until I gave it some more thought.  First of all, let’s just recap what happened. God gave them a wonderful world in which to live, a world of enjoyment but to build character into them, He gave them one prohibition to follow.  They ignored it and did what He said not to do, so He held them to account for this and they made excuses. I wonder if the outcome would have been different, if they had responded, “We’re sorry, we’re stupid, we did wrong, please forgive us,” but they didn’t and so we find the Lord sending them out of the Garden, forbidding them to return. That seemed hard.

Whatever else it meant, it meant loss of that previous wonderful experience of peace, tranquility, security and love, but basically God was giving them exactly what they had asked for – freedom to do what they wanted without any restrictions from God – just like most people want. But left to their own devices, humanity is not nice, we exercise our free will in ways that are self-harming and certainly harming to others (as a history with only very few years free from war, tells). So Cain kills Abel (Gen 4) and within a relatively short time, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Gen 6:5)

But Hope: What a mess! And we sometimes refer to ‘civilization’????? How stupid sin is. If we had a complaint of God it might be, “Why ever did you give us free will?” and I think the answer would be, “Without it there would no love, no creativity, no relationships, no inspiration, and so much more missing.” So yes, God cut us free to be ourselves with all the awfulness that entails, but the alternative would be a world of zombies. Yet He doesn’t leave it there. When I first realized it, it came as a surprise but the mere fact that He gave them freedom to live outside His sphere of influence – the Garden – didn’t mean He completely cut Himself off from them. In chapter 4 we find Him talking with Cain, trying to guide him away from murder.

In chapter 5 we find Enoch ‘walking with God’, having an ongoing relationship with God. In chapter 6 we see Him talking to Noah. In chapter 12 we see the start of the long saga of Abram’s relationship with God, and all that follows on. Oh no, as we saw very early on, this is a God of involvement and eventually a God of salvation through His Son, Jesus. Free-will failure, yes. Banishment. Yes. No contact. No! The plan is that God would work within the folly of mankind, not outside it as we’ll see.

Pharaoh, a hopeless case: We’ll keep this one short: why did God engineer the whole debacle involving hard-hearted Pharaoh (Ex 1-12) because that’s what it seems like? He knew it would happen,  He knew that in a broken world a famine would mean Jacob and his family would end up in Egypt, He knew they would stay there instead of returning to Canaan, He knew they would flourish and grow and be a threat to Egypt and become their slaves, He knew that Egypt, with the folly of sinful mankind would decline into an occult-driven, superstitious mess of inhumanity (even sacrificing their own children) and He knew that hard-hearted occult-driven Pharaoh would never give way to Moses’ demands, so why…… hold on!

I used the word ‘engineer’ early on but perhaps that is not an appropriate word to use because what I have just listed in this series of events is i) a result of the Fall, a famine, and ii) then a series of misdoings by human beings whereby their messy interactions ended up with the events of the Exodus. God simply took the sinful affairs of mankind and used that as the backdrop of the stage where He would reveal His power and grace and mankind’s staggering folly. Wow!

Saul: The third instance that I have in mind, of the way God works well, is that of Saul. To try and keep it as short as possible, Israel are fed up with having judges rule over them and so ask Samuel to give them a king like other nations have. (1 Sam 8:4,5). Now God is incredibly gracious when Samuel comes to Him with this request and says, don’t worry, it’s not you they are rejecting, but me. Now make sure you tell them what happens when you have a king, the things he will demand (see 1 Sam 8:10-18) so that they will know exactly what they are getting into.

Nevertheless the people say give us a king – so God gives them exactly what they want – a big guy, head and shoulders taller than most, who looks good and looks like he can beat up the enemy. You can read it in the following chapters. God even allows the choice – Saul – to have a serious spiritual experience (see 10:9,11) Saul has everything going for him, yet he shows that being a king of a nation under God requires more than just looking big and tough and, cutting a long story short, God has to tell Samuel that it’s up with Saul and He has someone else on His heart to replace him, (1 Sam 13:14) a man after his own heart – David. But consider all this, God gave them exactly what they wanted but that wasn’t enough and the record proves that.

And So? So what have we seen?  God who holds His erring Adam and Eve accountable but allows them to live their lives exactly as they wanted – and yet He still keeps in close contact. Then there was the foolish Pharaoh, coming at the end of a series of unwise choices by Israel (not to return home and to stay in Egypt, and not flee when the pressures started to build) who simply provided a further opportunity for the folly of sin in mankind to be demonstrated for all to see, alongside the power and grace of God.

Finally, in the case of Saul, we see God giving Israel exactly what they want – despite all the warnings they rejected – and allowing that situation to be worked out in the long-term bringing maturity to the shepherd-boy-cum-king, David. For anyone with an honest and open heart, these are examples of a God who cares but that caring is in such a manner that in each case truth is revealed to the world about itself. The message we are left with? We need a Savior, someone to dig us out of the messes we keep getting ourselves into!  We’ll see some more of this in the next study.

5. The Big Picture

Studies in Isaiah 54: 5. The Big Picture

Isa 54:6 “The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.

Two Approaches:  As we look at this verse it appears that there can be two approaches to it. There is the approach that sees it in the context of the history of Israel and then the approach that sees it in the context of the history of the world. Put most simply we have a picture that portrays a wife who has been rejected, deserted and distressed, which can be either Israel or the world (and we will look at both) whom the Lord calls back to Himself. What follows in the ongoing verses is simply an expansion of that.

Israel, the wife: This has to be the primary meaning within a prophecy that comes from a Hebrew prophet to Israel in their time-space history. We must note the words in verse 6, “as if you were”. It is a picture, an analogy, to describe what they are like. The implication is that the Lord is like their husband. He had called them – through Abram and then later through Moses – to become a uniquely identifiable people with a uniquely distinct relationship with Him, a relationship likened to that of a husband and wife.

When? Now there is always a problem with prophecy: it may be spoken out of time, about a future time, a future time that is not yet identifiable, and it may be fulfilled more than once! So the Lord speaks of a time when He had apparently given them up: “For a brief moment I abandoned you,” (v.7a) and, “In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment.” (v.8a) Now in Isa 36 we have an historical insert: “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Then the king of Assyria sent his field commander with a large army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.”  (Isa 36:1,2)

It was one of those numerous times when the Lord would discipline Israel – to bring them back to Himself – by using an enemy invader. The reality is that it happened so many times – the book of Judges is full of it – that it is difficult to suggest from our perspective when the Lord was referring to. The fact that Isaiah refers to Cyrus, who later becomes an instrument in the Lord’s hand for getting Israel back to the Land after the Exile, suggests it could be that this prophecy is yet to be also used for encouraging Israel in that later time as well as in the present when Isaiah is actually speaking out these words.

A Changed People:  The point of this word – in the present at least – is to reassure Israel that they were not utterly cast away. Now the truth is that the Lord does not just shrug his shoulders and pretend that sin has not happened; He always deals with it. The Exile, possibly many years later, was a time of purging Israel of their idolatry and of creating a new faithful heart in them. Thus when the remnant eventually started returning after some forty years, they came back with changed hearts. We need to realize this, that when the Lord speaks of restoring Israel after a time of disciplining, it is a purged people He will be restoring, a changed people.

He’s not going to just turn the clock back so that the old sinful attitudes are still there and He is doing nothing about it, He is going to change them. Previously, if He appeared to be doing nothing, it was simply that He was staying His hand of judgment to give them time to repent, and if they did not, then the judgment came to discipline them: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)

So when we try to understand the ways of the Lord, we should always understand that even though discipline comes, it comes with the purpose of changing us and the end result is to be a restored and changed people, a people who have been cleansed by the judgment (discipline) and had their hearts changed and transformed. Perhaps we should also note the tense at the beginning of verse 6: “The Lord will call you back…” There is a future sense to this. It is the Lord declaring His intention of what is yet to come, but that is how it is so often with prophecy; it is not merely stating God’s will for the moment, it also so often declares it for the future.

The World:  But the second approach we said above is about the world. The big picture of salvation after the Fall is perhaps portrayed here. This is the big picture of God’s plans and purposes for the whole world. At the Fall we were cast away. His relationship with mankind – Adam and Eve – was fractured by sin. When I first studied this judgment of being cast out of the Garden, I marveled that this was not the end of the ‘God + Mankind’ equation. God did not totally abandon us, He gave us what we wanted, what Adam and Eve had revealed, autonomy, the freedom to live our lives as we will – with all the repercussions!  We would learn, we had a need, of someone to save us from the mess that we all make of life.  And thus it was that it was like He hovered in the background. It was clear that He spoke with Cain and Abel, had dealings with various others in the ensuing years, and eventually called Abram into relationship with Him.

The Anger of the Lord: The words of these verses that we are considering could equally be applied to the Fall and what followed it: “The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.” (v.6) They had a relationship with the Lord to start with, but their sin meant that, “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment.“ (v.7,8) The folly of sin evokes righteous anger; it is a right response to wrong.

In our defensiveness we so often fail to see this, perhaps only made clear when one of our children do wrong and provoke anger within us.  Anger is a rising of indignation, a rising of displeasure at what has happened. The thing should not have happened, it was pure folly for it to happen – and of course that is true of all sin, we should know better, but there seems to be this blindness that is part of sin, so that we don’t see the folly and so proceed with the sin. It is stupid and so any onlooker with an unbiased mind would feel a sense of anger that it ever happened. If we could see clearly we would feel it; God does see clearly and so feels it.

The Compassion of the Lord:  “I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.” We may settle in anger and fume; God never does. It may be right to respond with anger at our folly but God never leaves it there. He looks upon us and anger is tempered by compassion. He is love (1 Jn 4:8,16, Ex 34:6,7) and love always looks for the best in everyone else. Anger is appropriate but it is overwhelmed by compassion and out of that God acts to redeem us.

There is a mystery here that C.S.Lewis sought to address, that God appears to stand outside of history, like He looks down on history, as seen as a road below that He can see from beginning to end, but also He steps into history and acts as if everything is new. So although the Scriptures are clear that the Godhead planned salvation, seeing the effect of free-will, even before they made anything, when the Fall took place God’s response to the moment was anger followed by compassion, and it was that compassion that moves Him to continue to interact with mankind. Never say God doesn’t care for us, He does. He may discipline us, “for a little while” (Heb 12:10) but it is that Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.”  (Heb 12:11).

Thus in these verses we also have the wonder of our salvation. Whenever we fail the Lord and come under His discipline, always remember it is but for a moment and the compassion of God will be there to restore us to Him: “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 Jn 2:1) God’s constant intent is to redeem us and that is what the whole of the Bible is all about. See it and rejoice in it.  Hallelujah!

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.

Snapshots: Day 11

Snapshots: Day 11

The Snapshot: “Did God really say…”  Behind even just one boundary, one limitation, there lurks temptation, temptation to reject, temptation to ignore, temptation that says, “Perhaps He didn’t mean it, perhaps my way is best.” Temptation is there behind the many hidden boundaries that wise usage means are there. Temptation had to be faced and overcome or given way to, and whichever way, lessons learned. And thus God stood back while a tempter came, the test faced, and the Fall experienced, and life would never be the same again. Yet failure never ends there with God for He foresees and plans accordingly and never gives up on us. A Beginning. Do I need to ask His forgiveness for where I gave way and ignored His boundaries?

Further Consideration: Temptation, a dictionary says, is the offer or wish to do or have something that you know you should not do or have, something that is wrong.  The sting of that sentence is in the last few words – something that is wrong, for the whole thing about temptation is that we are provoked to think (either by our own wrong thinking or by someone else suggesting it to us) that either a) the thing isn’t actually ‘wrong’ or b) even if it is, it doesn’t matter, I can get away with it without harm following.

That was exactly what we find in Genesis 3 when the tempter questions Eve as to whether eating the fruit was really wrong. Is that what God said, is that what He meant? And then that followed by, “You will not certainly die.” i.e. it will be all right, what He said won’t happen, and then a reason is given why it is good to ignore what God said. Isn’t that exactly how it is today? It’s OK to have a few drinks, it’s OK to try a few drugs, it’s OK to sleep around, it’s all right for you to do what feel good for the moment, it’s OK to ignore what were once Christian inhibitions, limitations, restrictions. It will be all right.  Deception!

Deception, a dictionary says, is ‘hiding the truth, causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid’. That is what the enemy seeks to do to spoil our relationship with God and make us think we don’t need all the good God promises us if we turn to Him. The biggest lie is, “You are all right on your own. You don’t need God.”

The most amazing thing about all this, is that even when we do give way to temptation and we fall, that is not the end of it. When we come to our senses and tell God we are truly sorry He doesn’t even blink, but instantly forgives us and welcomes us back with open arms. he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Lk 15:20) How wonderful! But hold on, He also wants us to learn from our failure so we won’t do it again. It’s not just the one-off, it’s the habit, the attitude. Don’t tolerate them. The temptation is to shrug it off

38. Understanding the Fallen World

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 38. Understanding the Fallen World

Rom 8:20-22 (NLT) Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Accepting the Fall: I am aware that I often refer to this ‘fallen world’ which in itself refers to the Fall recorded in Gen 3 and to the fall of Adam and Eve from perfect people to sinners. Although disputed by liberal ‘believers’, the New Testament affirms that it was clearly an historical event according to the apostle Paul (see Rom 5:12, 1 Cor 15:21, 1 Tim 2:14, 2 Cor 11:3). The point about the Fall for us today, is found in the consequences, both logically and in reality.

The logic of the Fall: Apart from the fact that Genesis declares it and the key New Testament scholar acknowledges its historicity, the Fall declares something so fundamental that most of us never even think about it. As far as God is concerned, the state of living after the Fall is NOT normal. Normal for God is how the world was before mankind sinned, and ‘normal’ is what it will be when God creates a new heaven and a new earth eventually (Rev 21:1) with a new sin-free community (21:2). But here is the thing, if you don’t believe in God and you don’t believe in the Fall, all you are left with is a messed-up world that was always messed up and will always remain messed up, a very pessimistic scenario.

The reality of the Fall: As I have quoted before, one modern historical commentator has said ‘the history of the world is the history of wars’ and most people have heard of Mao Tse Tung’s quote: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” But it is not just nations, it is tribes and cultures and families and individuals who seem unable to live peaceably together. The curses of Genesis 3 show that life after the Fall was changed, it became more difficult, harder and harsher as God stepped back into the shadows and let us live our lives as we wanted – alone. (And yet as we saw at the beginning of these studies, He is still there reaching out to whoever will respond to Him).

Worldwide changes: The indications are that this change affected the whole of creation which is what makes Isaiah’s prophetic analogy(?) so incredible when he speaks of the day of the Messiah when, The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11:6-9) The amazing sense of peace and harmony among all living creatures there, makes us realise how different the world is now. The Bible doesn’t spell it out but there are hints of powers and forces released that cause geographical upheaval that didn’t occur before the Fall – earthquakes, moving tectonic plates, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes. It is not clear and so is speculative, but it makes sense. Something else that Genesis shows us is that human behaviour deteriorates when left to itself. From a first single act of disobedience we read that before very long, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.(Gen 6:5)

Why am I like this? The fact is that sickness and illness developed in the world, things go wrong with our health. Even more than that our bodies develop ‘defects’. I have a particular non-problematical skin feature that I clearly inherited from my mother and from her family. Things like this get passed on down through generations. Sometimes they can be very serious. To take one example, Huntington’s disease is a rare inherited disorder involving the progressive loss of particular nerve cells in the brain, and causes a decline in thinking and reasoning skills, including memory, concentration, judgment, and ability to plan and organize. Huntington’s disease comes from a genetic disorder. (Quotes from Internet). Sometimes genetic changes can cause literal physical changes and so in the modern ‘transgender debate’ we find that there are some people, fairly rare, who are born with what possibly might be best expressed as mixed (both) sexual organs that challenge gender identity. More commonly in the gender debate, which we’ll consider as a separate subject, we find people whose psychological and emotional identity does not correspond to their biological sex.  This often creates the question, “Why am I like this?”

The truth about causes: The answer to this question is NOT, “Because you have sinned, and it is God’s punishment.” It is also NOT, as some Christians who struggle personally with these things say, “God made me like this.” No, He didn’t. What we are talking about here are consequences of the Fall, of the world going wrong. The fact that God allows the Fallen world to work like this is no more and no less than like a frustrated car mechanic watching a person run their car into the ground from lack of proper maintenance, who has been told to mind his own business and let the car owner get on and do what he wants. There may sometimes be a causal link between sin and a bodily breakdown – as we’ve suggested before, long-term alcohol abuse can result in organ damage, e.g. to the brain and nervous system, heart, liver and pancreas. Medical authorities maintain there are clear scientific links between smoking and lung cancer. Personal injuries may be caused by personal negligence. However there are times when things happen out of the blue with no apparent cause, because that is what sometimes happens in a fallen world. In respect of diseases it may be that an individual makes themselves vulnerable to catching a particular disease, but often such things happen simply because we are part of the fallen human race, not because I am more of a sinner than my neighbour. (see Jesus in Lk 13:4).

The truth about behaviour: When we come to consider behaviour, attitudes and outlook in respect of gender issues, which has been so much forced into the open in the last twenty years or more, as with any other behaviour, attitudes and outlook, we arrive at a major debate which, I believe, has not been resolved intellectually or scientifically. Feelings about gender are flexible (and we’ll consider this more fully in the next study) and science has not been able to determine so far what are the definitive causes for the ways individuals feel about themselves, but however we feel, there is still a large measure of freedom as to how we act out those feelings, and therefore choice is still there in some degree.

To take a silly, nongender-issue example, on a bad day I can wake up and feel physically very low. There are probably good physical reasons why my emotions flow in that direction. However, if I am wise, I keep my mouth shut until body and emotions pick up; it is that simple. Whatever our propensity, we still do have a measure of choice as to how we will act. The Fall did not take that away from us. Genetically, we may be predisposed or inclined in one direction, but we are never forced down a particular path. As Christians especially, we can seek the Lord for grace and thus choose with His help how we will act. Taking my eyes off me when I am feeling low about myself, and simply saying in actions, how can I help others, refocuses our lives and our actions as well as our mind and emotions, so that His resources can then flow in me.

Fallen People: Now this is very significant when it comes to the way we think about other people, particularly people who are not ‘like me’! First, we would do well to see that every one of us human beings struggle in some measure with some ‘foible’, as I referred to our quirks or personal idiosyncrasies, our ‘feet of clay’ as I have on occasions referred to it before.  But those aren’t just ways of thinking, the things we struggle with can be physical or emotional. This needs to be our starting point, this recognition that because this is a fallen world we are all in some way or other ‘broken’ or ‘damaged’. The more I have revelation about my life the more I see what a broken person I was (and still am in a measure), falling short of perfection, falling short of grace and goodness sometimes. Look, every time we have spoken a harsh word, thought an uncharitable thought, put self before others, acted less than perfectly, we have identified that we are fallen people.

Redeemed People: But when we look at ourselves and others around us, we have to come back to the heart of this series so, second, we need to remind ourselves that although we are fallen and imperfect, God is on our case. He has provided a new life for us in Christ through His Son’s death on the Cross, and He has provided His own Holy Spirit for us, to indwell us and help us, and so although we do so often struggle with coping with these inadequacies, these blemishes, these signs of being broken, He still loves us, is there for us and is there gently working to change us, in His way, with His wisdom, with His power, in His time. Hallelujah! We will be changed, it will happen, partly this side of death and completely in eternity.

Beware jumping to conclusions:  Once we get to and see the redemption idea, we can be reassured about ourselves and then we start looking at others and start thinking about how they could be redeemed, how they could be changed and so there, third, if we are not careful, we start getting judgmental; we forget so many of these truths and revert to, “why are they like that, it is wrong, they are wrong,” and other short-sighted ungracious, insensitive thoughts that are moral assessments that may be part-truths but forget the big redemption picture.  Keep it simple: God loves them.  Start from that point and show them His love by the way you unconditionally accept and love them. Watch Jesus’ example in the Gospels as he interacted with ‘sinners’. That doesn’t mean you agree with their lifestyle or life-outlook, but that you want to be there for them in case God wants to use you in their particular ‘redemption process’. Much grace needed. Let these truths sink into you, anchor you, and maybe restrain you, but may they help us each to be part of His redemption process within us and in others around us.

7. The Plan Revealed

Meditations in the life of Abraham : 7. The Plan Revealed

Gen 12:1-3  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  and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

We indicated in the previous meditation that God had a plan from before the foundation of the world, a plan that would be worked out through all generations, coming to its climax in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, but then continuing on through all generations until the time when He will wind up the world as we know it today. EVERYTHING that happens yesterday, today and tomorrow falls within that plan.

What actually is that plan? It is simply to draw men and women back into a relationship with God so that their lives may then be brought back, in a large measure at least, to be lived according to His original design for human beings. Why is this necessary? Because at the Fall we lost the relationship with God, turning our back on Him and going our own way. That is what the Bible calls Sin, that propensity within every one of us to be godless and self-centred. While we are like that, so much of what we do will be unrighteous, i.e. it is the opposite to God’s design for us, and is harmful, hurtful and destructive. Here in this paragraph is the overview of the Bible, the overview of history, the overview of this plan of God as shown in the Bible,

So how does Abram fit in this plan? In three specific ways: first, because he is going to be the first man who enters into a long-term relationship with the Lord. Then, out of that, he is going to provide an example of faith, an example of what it means to relate to the Lord. Then out of that, he will be the father of a nation into whom the Son of God will be born. That nation will have history and culture and that will provide the background for the Son of God coming to this world and living in it for thirty three years.

So here in these first verses of Genesis 12 we have something of this plan declared. Let’s examine it bit by bit. It is what had already been spoken by the Lord to Abram, presumably when he was back in his home country. It first requires Abram to do something. First there was to be a leaving: Leave your country, your people and your father’s household.” The future for Abram would mean leaving the people he had known all his life, leaving the life of idolatry. What would replace that, only time would tell, but it wasn’t just a leaving, it was living with a purpose; there was somewhere to go: “and go to the land I will show you.”  God had a place for him that would prove to be a place of blessing, a place where his relationship with the Lord would be worked out.  These two things are just the same for us. When the Lord calls us, He calls us to leave the godless and self-centred lifestyle we have known all our years and embark on a journey with Him into the experience of thekingdom ofGod where that new relationship will be worked out.

Then come the promises of God, the things He says He will do if Abram is obedient:I will make you into a great nation.” That, as we’ve noted before, will act as a spur to Abram but that is not its main point. It is simply a declaration of what God will do with him. Now note that there is no time scale attached to this, so Abram will never see this ‘great nation’ but he will be the start of it. In God’s economy, we may often be just the start of something that others will enter into.

Then comes a second promise: “and I will bless you.”  We may think that being made into a great nation is blessing enough but God has more than just making him into a nation: “I will make your name great.”  He is going to be famous. Is that just because he is to be the father of a nation or is there something more? “and you will be a blessing.”  No, it is more than just being a figurehead, somehow he is going to be a bringer or good for other people; his life is destined to affect others.

As we read on now we find that other people will be seriously affected by the way they treat Abram. “I will bless those who bless you.”  i.e. those who purpose good for Abram will have good done to them by God. “and whoever curses you I will curse.”  If people mean harm to Abraham they will find that God opposes them and will bring harm on them. Well those are promises that mean security for Abram himself and that is good, but there is yet something more: “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Notice the word, ‘through’. As a result of Abram people from all over the word will be blessed? How will that be? It will be as we said earlier: he is to be an example of faith and a provider of the nation into which the Messiah will be born. Hallelujah!