Just like God said

And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
(Genesis 21:1-2)

Today is a reminder for us that God keeps His promises.

He keeps His promises on His time table. It took 25 years after God’s promise, but Abraham and Sarah had their son. They had times when they wondered and even tried to go about fulfilling their own way, but in the end, God came through. I can get impatient, and it is good for me to remember that God’s timing is not mine. Another of God’s promises to Abraham took 2,000 years to fulfill, that being the promise of Jesus.

He keeps His promises just like He promised. What He promised, in detail, He delivered. Men keep promises and then adapt them later because the original promise cannot or won’t be kept. God is not like that. There is no “bait and switch” with God.

in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,
(Titus 1:2)

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” 
(Numbers 23:19)

“And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
(1 Samuel 15:29)

Return to your mistress and submit to her

The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction.
(Genesis 16:7-11)

Hagar was on the run. She was really treated poorly by Sarai, and felt the only option was for her to run away. God appears to her and speaks to her, and what does He say?

Go back home and submit yourself to Sarai. What? Sarai was really being harsh with Hagar. Sarai put her in a really bad situation and now is treating Hagar like an enemy. It doesn’t seem fair that God would send her home, but He did.

Three points about this:

  • God’s answers are not always easy to hear. Below you will see a passage from Peter about slaves and masters. How does a Christian behave when being mistreated? God’s answer doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but remember what Jesus did when He was cruelly treated?
  • With that command came reassurance and comfort from God. The Lord was watching what was going on at home with Sarai and Hagar, and He was fully aware of the affliction Hagar was enduring. God’s blessings and provision were promised to Hagar even as she had to deal with a mistress who was very harsh with her.
  • Running away is not always the right answer. There was a time for people to flee and runaway. Christians fled from persecutions. Jesus fled to the other side of the Jordan to avoid the murderous attempts of the Jewish leadership. God told Jesus’ parents to flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod. There is a time to flee, but running away is not always the right remedy. For this situation, God wanted Hagar to go back home. Here’s another example. Onesimus was a runaway slave who ran into Paul while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Paul taught him the gospel and Onesimus became a believer in Christ. But what did Paul do? He sent Onesimus home to his master, Philemon, with a letter. Paul did not keep Onesimus with him and only send the letter to Philemon. It may be that instead of running away from a difficult situation that God wants you to fight and stand for Him through that difficult situation.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
(1 Peter 2:18-25)

When You Don’t Listen to God First

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
(Genesis 16:1-2)

Abram and Sarai were promised a child. They were old. It had been 10 years. After a while a person starts to have all kinds of ideas. Maybe we can help this along. How about Hagar? Let’s try having a child through her! You might not appreciate what Sarai proposed, but try to imagine how desperate they were to have a child.

But just because we are desperate, impatient and wondering why God has not come through on His end of the deal, does not give us a green light to go outside His will. Abram and Sarai, just like so many of us, had to grow in faith and learn to wait on God.

We have to see, though, that there are consequences to not listening to God first. There are doors we open and things we set in motion that are irreversible when we listen to others first and forget to consult God.

Consider just a few consequences of Abram listening to Sarai first instead of God:

  • Think of the strain that put on Abram and Sarai’s marriage. Sarai quickly realized what she did was wrong, but there was no going back. Her husband slept with her handmaiden, and that could not be reversed. This is an example of how we can make a time of hardship into a real crisis. Yes we can appreciate that Abram and Sarai were sad, hurting and waiting for God to fulfill His promise, but what they did created a real crisis in their family.
  • Look at the strife that came between Sarai and Hagar because of this. Hagar began to despise Sarai, and then Sarai really treated Hagar so badly that Hagar ran away. God even took note of how badly Hagar was treated by Sarai.
  • What about what the problems that came in between Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants? For generations to come, these families would have problems, and all because of one weak moment in Abram and Sarai’s life. Because they did not listen to God first and wait on him, their families suffered strife for generations.

Listen to God first. Wait on Him, even when all other things are falling apart around you. Trust in His promises. Do not waver. Learn from the lessons of those like Abram and Sarai. Be cautious of letting your impatience turning an already hard situation into a very bad series of events.

Thank God for Michigan

Oh, before we start…May the 4th be with you.

The following excerpt is from the greatest and most reliable resource ever…Wikipedia. 🙂

At the beginning of the Civil War, regiments from Michigan were raised to answer Lincoln’s call for men. The first volunteers from Michigan were mustered into the Army as the 1st Michigan Infantry on May 1, 1861. On May 16, the regiment arrived in Washington; Lincoln was said to have exclaimed “Thank God for Michigan!” upon the troops’ arrival.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Thank God for Michigan!” Why did he do that? Because the nation was in a dire need and was about to face one of its greatest challenges. And here comes around 80,000 troops from Michigan saying, “We’re here to fight.” They were volunteers…another great observation to make.

It reminds me of the church in Philippi that rose to the occasion “once and again” to help support the apostle Paul. Paul was in need, and they mustered the troops and sent him what he needed.

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Philippians 4:14-20)

How refreshed Paul was to see the help come from the Philippian brethren. How encouraged Abraham Lincoln must have been to see those troops who had traveled all the way from Michigan to help support the cause.

Trust – Not Knowing

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
(Heb 11:8)

Trust. In order to trust another, it by definition means you don’t have all the answers and information. You don’t possess all the details and you are going on the word of someone else.

Abraham was told to take his family and his corporation and go. Go where? Go where God told him to go! That’s not a lot of information to go on, is it? But it was all the information Abraham needed.

Sometimes we really geek out on the details and have to know all the information. God doesn’t work that way with us. He wants us to trust in Him and His promises without having all the facts. You will not be able to know how everything is going to turn out in specificity. The Lord isn’t going to send us a spreadsheet with charts.

I’ll leave you with a short passage from Exodus that tells of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. They didn’t have all the information and details. Their job was to be silent and go forward. Trust God and let Him take care of the rest.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
(Exodus 14:13-15)

Because You Have Done This

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
(Genesis 22:14-18)

“Because you have done this” – That statement could be in between a bad choice leading to a awful consequence, but for Abraham it was quite the opposite. Abraham made a choice to obey God even when it would cost him his son Isaac. Because Abraham made this choice to obey God even through extreme sacrifice of what he held most dear, God would richly bless him and his family for generations to come.

We studied this chapter last night in a Bible study at someone’s home, and it really caused us to reflect upon the faith and trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. That trust in God’s promises led him to the conclusion that if he killed Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He knew that God would provide, even if Abraham gave up the very things God promised him.

What a great example for leaders of homes, and what an encouragement to know that if we make the commitment to follow God fully, God will be there in our homes blessing us and providing us with wisdom and strength. Abraham said, “The Lord will provide,” and that is just as true for us today as it was for Abraham. Our job is to fully obey His voice. The calling for us is the same as it was for Abraham; don’t withhold anything from God. Don’t let anything be so valuable to us that we would not give it over to Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:19-24)

Remember Lot’s Wife

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
(Genesis 19:26)

Last night we had a Bible study and we looked at Genesis 19 concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As we talked about Lot’s wife being turned by God into a pillar of salt, a few thoughts were discussed in the class.

Remember not to look back to that old world.

The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
(Proverbs 14:14)

We are to die to sin. We are to leave that old world behind. That old world is going to be destroyed, including all those who follow in its ways. Some of those who are destroyed in that old world may be very close to you. Don’t look back. Don’t turn back. Longing and pining for the things and people in Sodom will only lead to your own destruction.

We have to love God more than family.

And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
(Matthew 10:36-37)

Lot pleaded with the men who were to marry his daughters. They took it as a joke; they didn’t take the warnings seriously (Gen. 19:14). It seems that this may have been part of the reason Lot delayed and lingered. Maybe there were more family members or close friends there that he didn’t want to leave.

What we do know is that the angels grabbed Lot, his wife and his daughters by the arms and forced them out of the city. This was because of God’s mercy upon Lot in response to Abraham’s prayers (Gen. 19:16,29). Lot was called righteous by God, but that doesn’t mean that he always made good decisions. God had to yank him out of this city (2 Peter 2:6-9). Lot was tormented by the wickedness around him in Sodom, yet he still delayed to leave Sodom. There is a point there for us, I believe.

Am I lingering in Sodom? Maybe because I’m too close to someone, it clouds my vision and I don’t stand up for what is right. How many times do we see that happen? Lot lingered in Sodom, when he (1) knew how wicked it was, and (2) he knew God was about to torch it. What or who was he so tied to that he was delaying the very thing God commanded him to do? It is something for us to reflect upon.

In our study last night, someone pointed out from Genesis 19:26 that Lot’s wife was behind him. She was turned to a pillar of salt. Lot never looked back. Whether he knew at that point or not that she had been destroyed, he didn’t turn back. He did what the angels of God told him to do. With all of his delay and hesitation while still in the city (Gen. 19:15-16), he now did exactly what God told him to do, even when his wife did not. He had the opportunity as well to look back with longing and/or sadness over the city and its people. But he kept his eyes looking forward.

Jesus used this event to teach His disciples and prepare them for the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He told them that when they saw certain signs, to get out immediately, don’t go back into their houses to get anything. Move! Go! Get out!

On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
(Luke 17:31-33)

Remember Lot’s wife today, men. Am I seeking to preserve my life and my things and my ways? Or am I walking away from Sodom without looking back?

For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
(Hebrews 10:37-39)

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?

Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. “I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
(Genesis 18:16-21)

The Lord was about to rain down fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorroah. As the two angels are departing toward those exceedingly wicked cities, we are welcomed into a short conversation that the Lord has with those two angels.

God asks a question, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” He had already decided what was going to happen. “Should I tell Abraham?” It seems as if the answer was already “yes,” but the Lord is explaining why He will let Abraham in what’s about to happen in Sodom and Gomorrah.

“He will become a great and mighty nation.” What impacts the peoples around Abraham will impact Abraham and his descendants.

“In Abraham all nations of the earth will be blessed.” Through Abraham, God will bring forth his mercy and blessings upon the earth.

Speaking of mercy, it is very clear in the latter part of chapter 18 that Abraham and God both had great compassion for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God and Abraham were not in a hurry to see these people destroyed. Abraham’s heart was like God’s heart.

“I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord.” What will happen to Sodom and Gomorrah is a vivid illustration for Abraham and his family of what happens when people walk away from God. Abraham would command his children and grandchildren to walk in God’s pathway. As a father and grandfather, he could point to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and speak of God’s wrath upon the wicked, but he could also speak to God’s mercy upon people like his righteous nephew Lot (2 Peter 2:6-9; Genesis 19:16).

“So that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” Abraham’s family, the nation of Israel, would have a choice just like Sodom and Gomorrah. Blessings or curses, life or death. God wanted Israel to choose life (Deuteronomy 30). Sadly, when you read the prophets, the later generations in Israel and Judah actually became WORSE than Sodom (Lamentations 4:6).

This verse about Abraham instructing his children is not isolated from the rest of the context. God’s overwhelming wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah would pierce the heart of a righteous father and stir him to “command” his family in righteous living. Abraham would stand in the gap and warn his family to avoid the path of the wicked for it leads to great pain and sorrow (Proverbs 4:14,15).

We can and must provide that contrast today as fathers. Do not shy away from using the path of the wicked that is all too visible around us. Use what is around you to demonstrate to your sons and daughters that path of wickedness must be avoided. On that pathway, kids, you will fall under the wrath of God. But also look to the ways of those who are living righteously both in Scripture and around you today, and use them as examples for your kids (Psalm 37:37; Proverbs 4:18; Philippians 3:17; Hebrews 13:7).

If you are a father and grandfather, you are chosen by God and appointed for the same purpose as Abraham. Command your children and grandchildren to follow the ways of God.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4)

Therefore from one man

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore (Hebrews 11:11-12).

I was always taught that when there is a “therefore” in a Bible verse you need to find out what it’s “there for.” This “therefore” in Hebrews 11:11-12 connects the faith of Sarah to the innumerable multitude that came from the loins of Abraham. It was not just Abraham’s faith and Abraham’s relationship with God that brought forth these amazing blessings from God upon generations to come.

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who promised. THEREFORE…

Sarah’s faith gave her power to conceive. See the “therefore”? Therefore Abraham became a father of multitudes. Yes God promised it, and Abraham believed it, but Sarah became pregnant because she believed it, too.

Sarah grew in faith to reach this conclusion. She had at times considered her own age and physical ability to conceive a child. When we look at passages like Genesis 16 and 18 we know that Sarah had her own growth process that she had to go through to come to the faith we see mentioned in Hebrews 11:11. Remember that Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar into the embrace of Abraham because she thought that would be the way to make God’s blessings and promises a reality (Genesis 16). It was Sarah who laughed inside her tent when she heard the men talking about her having a baby the next year (Genesis 18).

If that’s all you knew about Sarah would you have called her a strong woman of faith? If you were Abraham would you be tempted to think you are the strong one in this relationship and are carrying her along? Sarah had her moments of weakness, and she had need of growth, but look at what God did through Sarah.

Didn’t Abraham have to grow too? Abraham laughed too! When offered the handmaid Hagar, he went into her. He listened to Sarah instead of God. Abraham had his own process of growth he was going through.

All of this to say, men, that when we look at our wives who are following Jesus, know that God is doing a great work within them, and He will accomplish it (Philippians 1:6). Also know that because of that growth of faith within her, you and generations to come will be blessed immensely.

Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:28-31).

 

 

 

We have found water

Right now, we are in the process of having a new well dug. So as I’m writing, the well driller is outside prepping the area for drilling…and we are praying!

It made me think of Genesis 26:12-33 when Isaac was digging wells.

The first observation: Enemies

One of the first things I notice is that Abraham and Isaac had enemies. The Philistines had stopped up the wells of Abraham by filling them with earth (vs. 15). Isaac was told to get away from the Philistines because they saw him as too powerful (vs. 16). They were afraid of him and envied him.

So, Isaac left and went away. In this section you see Isaac repeatedly trying to live in peace with his enemies. He digs a well, the Philistines quarrel with him about it, and he just moves on and tries another spot (vs. 19-22). He eventually finds a spot and digs a well where there is no contention from the Philistines (vs. 21).

Because of Isaac’s behavior and the Lord’s powerful working in Isaac, the Philistines clearly saw God’s presence in Isaac’s life (vs. 28). They ask to make a covenant with him, to ensure that he will not attack them (vs. 29). Their fear of him came because he was “the blessed of the Lord” (vs. 29).

In a world where everyone is looking for a fight and a reason to quarrel, what kind of people do we need to be in this world, men? What example do we as men need to set for our sons and daughters in how to live peaceably with all men?

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21)

The second observation: By His Father’s Names

Isaac re-dug the wells of Abraham and called them by the names Abraham called them (vs. 18). There is a great lesson here in following the example and walking in the pathway left by a godly person. Abraham dug these wells, and Isaac respected his father by calling them by the same names.

We can do the same by looking to those who go before us and leave footprints to follow. It may be our parents, grandparents or other godly people in the church who have laid down a pattern for us to follow.

They called sin by its name – “sin.” We need to call it by the same name.

These godly men and women called the Bible the Word of God. We need to call it by the same name.

Our spiritual forefathers showed reverence for the God and Creator and Lord Jesus Christ by the way the lived their lives, by how they worshiped him, and by how they respected His authority. We need to call the wells of faith they dug by the same names.

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13:7-8)

The third observation: The Lord blessed Isaac richly

Isaac’s eyes were on the Lord (vs. 22), and the Lord’s eyes were on Isaac (vs. 24). God encouraged Isaac not to fear because He was with Isaac and would bless him. Isaac built an altar and worshiped God (vs. 25). God blessed Isaac richly in the presence of his enemies.

That reminds me of David:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Psalm 23:5)

By “blessing” I do not mean to say that God is going to shower down material riches upon us. I also do not personally apply this to expect God to give the Kemples a well with perfect water this week. Even if we end up with nasty water again, God is good and He has blessed us richly. He has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). It really is the wells of salvation from which we draw the purest and most awesome water (Isaiah 12).

God blessed Isaac in a mighty way, and the enemies of Isaac saw God’s working in his life. This was a testimony to God’s grace and strength and it brought God glory. May we seek God’s blessings for His glory, and not for our own personal gain (see how Paul used “glory” in Ephesians 1:6,12,14).

The fourth observation: In His Time

You know, it took a lot of time and space in Genesis 26 from Gerar to Beersheba (vs. 17,33). It took time to dig wells, it took time for quarrels to happen, and it took even more time for Isaac to move his family, servants and animals to another location.

All the while, in good times and bad, in frustrations and victories, God was with Isaac. He is good. God accomplished His purpose and worked His will in His time, not in Isaac’s.

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
(Isaiah 40:27-31)