Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hagar and the Angel of the Lord

Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”
The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” 10 Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” 11 And the Angel of the Lord said to her:
“Behold, you are with child,
And you shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has heard your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man’s hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
Genesis 16:7-12, NKJV

Hagar and the Angel of the Lord

You will remember that problems have developed between Sarai and her handmaid, Hagar. Because Abram and Sarai were not able to have children, Sarai gave her handmaid to Abram so that she could have children through Hagar. When Abram followed the advice of Sarai and Hagar conceived, Hagar despised her mistress, Sarai.

Sarai, then, dealt harshly with Hagar, and Hagar ran away. As we read the verses above, we find that the Angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness.

What a time for Hagar. None of this happened through her own choosing. Yet God had His own purposes in all of this. How amazed Hagar must have been when she was visited by an Angel of the Lord. Even more amazing were the words He spoke.

First, the Angel told her to return to Sarai and submit herself under Sarai's hand. This was not the news that Hagar wanted to receive. Many times in our lives, as we go through very deep valleys, our desire is to be delivered from our dire situation. God, however, does not always do so. Sometimes His will is for us to go through the waters and lean on His help while we traverse these deep valleys of life. That is not always what we want to hear, but later in life, we realize that it is through these adverse times that we really learned to trust in God.

The Angel's words did not stop here, however. These next words must have been a shock to Hagar.

“I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” 

The Angel then continued by giving Hagar a glimpse into the future. She would give birth to a boy whom she was to name Ishmael. God had heard her prayers. Even though Ismael would become a wild man, he would also become a father of a great nation. 

Now, in this the 21st century, we find that both Ishmael and Isaac, who would later be born to Abram and Sarai, both have become fathers of great nations. The descendants of both are, truly, as the stars in the sky and the sands in the seas.

So, did all of these events interrupt or change God's plans? No! God uses us, the weak and foolish of this world to accomplish His great purposes. No man, great or small, changes the plans of God. He uses all men to accomplish His perfect and holy will.

What an encouragement this is to us today. As we see great evil spread through the entire world, we know that God is still God. All that He has planned will come to pass. As His children, we are not to fear, but rather we are to trust that He will faithfully use us, guide us, and direct us. He will keep us safely in His arms all of the days of our lives upon this earth. 

Evil, in the end, will not win. Though we live in troubling times when it seems as though almost everyone is running as far away from God as possible, we can still trust in Him. He saves us, He keeps us, and He will bring us safely home to live with Him, where we will be forever!

What an amazing God we serve. Do not let the foolish things of this world blind your minds, but, rather, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our only hope and He will not forget His children!

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sarai and Hagar

Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me.”
So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.
Genesis 16:5-6, NKJV

Sarai and Hagar

We continue our sad story of Sarai and Hagar. You will remember that God had promised to Abram that his descendants would be as the stars in the sky and as the sands in the seas. However, Sarai and Abram had no children.

Sarai, taking matters into her own hands, designed a way to accomplish God's promises to them. If Abram would sleep with her handmaid, Hagar, and bear children with her, then Sarai could claim them as her children.

As so often is the case, when we try to accomplish God's purposes in our own way and refuse to wait for God, we can really make a mess of things. That is exactly what happened in the case of Sarai and Hagar. Abram, at the encouragement of Sarai, slept with Hagar and Hagar conceived. 

Now, the trouble began. Hagar, who was just a handmaid, suddenly saw herself as better than Sarai. She was able to do what Sarai could not do--she was able to conceive. So, she despised Sarai. How did Sarai respond?

Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me."

She took the case up with Abram and said, "Now look what you have done. May God judge between you and me." In other words, she was blaming Abram for the misery that resulted from Hagar's actions towards her. 

Abram, who so foolishly followed Sarai's unwise advice simply ignored the situation and turned it back over to Sarai saying, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” We are then told that Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar.

The one who suffered the most in all of this was Hagar. She was just a handmaid to Sarai--a servant! None of these choices were hers. When Sarai turned her over to Abram, Hagar had no choice but to obey. However, when she conceived a child of Abram's, she suddenly saw herself in a totally new position. She was now Abram's concubine.

What are we to do if we find ourselves in a similar position as did Hagar? We may not be a servant, but we are often in situations that, totally out of our control, end in misery for us. How are we to understand God's dealings when the events of our life seem to be so unfair.

As we shall see when we continue in this passage from Genesis 16, nothing we do circumvents the plans of God. What God has predetermined to happen, will happen. We will find God dealing with both Hagar and with Abram and Sarai, in ways that accomplish His will.

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to trust God in all of the events of this life. Not all of these events may be pleasant. As a matter of fact, some of the events of this life may actually be quite difficult. God, however, promises to be with us. He guides and directs us all of the days of our lives, even if we are called to go through the valley of the shadow of death.

There is no place on this earth that is beyond the help of God. Let us, then, rejoice in this great God we serve even if we are traveling through some very deep waters. We serve an amazing and wonderful God who guides and directs us every single day of our lives on this earth. And, at the end of our lives, He will bring us safely into His heavenly arms where we will live forever!

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hagar Chosen

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.
Genesis 16:1-4, NKJV

Hagar Chosen

Our account today from Genesis 16 is a very sad account, but a very realistic one. God had promised Abram that He would give their land to Abram and his descendants. He also promised Abram that his descendants would be as the sand of the sea. There was only one problem. Abram and Sarai had no children. Sarai was unable to conceive.

As we are so often prone to do, Sarai took matters in her own hand. After all, she thought, if she gave her handmaid, Hagar, to Abram, then Hagar's child would become Sarai's child and God's promise could be fulfilled in that way. It sounded reasonable, but it was not God's plan. Instead, Sarai's plan created problems for both her and Abram as well as problems for their true descendants, the nation of Israel. To this day, there is warring among the descendants of Abram's two sons--the one conceived by Hagar and the one later conceived by Sarai.

This really addresses one of our most common problems that results in great sin in our own lives. How much do we trust God? God has promised to care for us. We are most happy to believe that when everything is going well for us, but what happens when problems arise?

Do you think this may be the very reason God allows great difficulties to come into our lives? What better way for us to learn to trust this God we love than to go through times of great trials and then to see God's faithful provisions to us. Though we understand that concept, it is not easy to have great faith in God when everything in our life seems to be falling apart.

There are two great problems in these verses. The first problem is the problem of Sarai determining her own way to solve God's problems. When we make major decisions, let us be careful to determine whether these decisions are just a result of our own lack of faith or our own covetousness, or whether our choices really do represent God's will.

The second problem in this passage is the problem of Abram. It does not seem as though he even thought to argue with Sarai. Though we know that Abram was a man of great faith, in this circumstance we see him as a man of great weakness. He, too, had given up on God and had determined to follow Sarai's suggestion in producing an heir.

When you think about it, these verses give us great hope. It is good that we see the weaknesses of Abram and Sarai for then we know that as God was patient in dealing with their weaknesses, so is He patient in dealing with ours.

In truth, we cannot mess up God's plans. Though we may fall into times of great weakness and lack of faith, God will embrace our returning to Him. He is ready to forgive! Often we learn more about faith and trust in God through our failures than we do from our successes.

Let us go forth this day trusting this great and wondrous God we serve. Amazing though it may be, He works His perfect will out through such weak people as we are. To God alone goes all of the honor, glory, and praise.

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

God's Covenant with Abram

12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Genesis 15:12-21, NKJV

God's Covenant with Abram

We reach a pivotal point in Genesis 15 in our story of Abram. God has promised to give to Abram the land in which he is now dwelling. In the verses shown above, we are allowed to peer into a very key moment in the relationship between God and Abram. God, the Ruler of the Universe, has deemed to make a covenant with man. A covenant is generally made between two people of equal status. However, there is no man of equal status with God.

So, in the account given above, God had Abram lay the animals whose blood would seal this covenant out on the ground. Then God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Abram, causing horror and great darkness for Abram. 

Then God said,  “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

Notice that God is speaking to Abram of things to come. First He is telling Abram that his descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. In that land, they will be afflicted for four hundred years. To what is God referring? God is referring to the Israelites being in the land of Egypt. We will come to the account of this time period later in the book of Genesis. God's prophecy is fulfilled exactly as God said even to the number of years they resided in Egypt. When the Israelites left the land of Egypt it was on the very day they had been there for 400 years.  

In God's covenant with Abram, what did God promise? 
 
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

One interesting point in God's conversation with Abram is this statement made by God. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

What is God saying? God is saying that the iniquity or sins of the people who lived in this land would become so great that He would remove them from the land. However, they had not yet reached that point.

Could that happen in our day? Does God rule over the nations? Yes and yes! Does God see the sin of the nations today? Yes! He does. Just as in Abram's day, God sees the sins of the nations as well as the sins of each and every person who is alive today. Though it may seem as though God does not notice and that there are no repercussions for our sins, that is not true. God sees and at the appointed time, God will judge. Whether that judgment comes when one country overpowers another, or whether it will not be dwelt with until the end of time, it will happen.

God in His righteousness and holiness will judge all nations and all people.

Let us think soberly on these accounts as we read through Genesis 15. God of all Gods and our King of all Kings rules this world in justice, righteousness, and holiness. And yet, He is a merciful God, providing salvation for His people through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now is the day of salvation! Let us fall before the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing our own sins and unworthiness and cry out for the Lord Jesus to save us.

What an amazing God we serve!

God Bless You,
Linda




Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Abram is Childless

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:1-6, NKJV

Abram is Childless

In Genesis 15 we begin to see into the very heart of Abram. He loves the wife God has given to him and he loves God Most High. However, there is one great grief in his life. Abram and Sarah have no children. 

In verse 1, the Lord God comes to Abram in a vision and says, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Yet God knew that though Abram rejoiced in this great God he served, there was still one thing that brought great grief to his life. 

So, Abram responded to the Lord, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” In other words, if Abram died that day, his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, would have inherited everything. Abram continued, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

How did God respond to Abram?  “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then God took him outside and told him to look to the heavens and count the stars if he was able. God continued, “So shall your descendants be.”

Did Abram respond with another objection or concern? No. Abram believed in the Lord, and God accounted it to him for righteousness. The lesson here is that believing that God is God is not salvation, for the devils believe in God, but they are not saved. Abram responded in faith to God, with no objections. If God said that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky, then it was so!

We will find as we continue through the book of Genesis that Abram's belief will be sorely tested. And, like us, he will not always make the best decisions. 

So, what does it mean to be a Christian today? Can we just make a decision for Christ and then go on with our lives as though nothing has happened? No! Believing in Christ is more than just believing He exists and that God is real. Believing in Christ means a total change takes place in our lives. In the past, we lived according to the desires and pleasures of this world. But, as a believer in Christ, God now rules our hearts and our lives.

In our heart of hearts, we seek to live for and please God. That means we study His Word, are constant in our prayer to Him  for help and guidance. Everything we are and everything we hope to be is established in the Lord Jesus Christ. By the help of the Holy Spirit, God molds us and makes us so that we will become more and more like Him.

Our greatest affections are no longer anchored in this world. Instead, our greatest affections are owned by the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we live and move and have our being. Though we love the great blessings God has given to us on this earth, including our families and friends, our hearts are set on the life to come when we will live with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven above forever.

May the Lord truly hasten the day!

God Bless You,
Linda
 

Monday, September 19, 2016

God Most High

21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— 24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
Genesis 14:21-24, NKJV

God Most High

Genesis 14 closes with a conversation between Abram and the king of Sodom. We find the king of Sodom urging Abram to return the people of Sodom but to take all of the goods for himself. Because Abram was the one who rescued the people of Sodom, the spoils of the war belonged to him. 

However, we find Abram unwilling to take anything of the spoils of war for himself. He replied to the king of Sodom,  “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth,  that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours." 

Why did Abram refuse to take any of the spoils of the war which he had earned by rescuing the people of Sodom? We find two interesting things in Abram's reply to the king. First, he acknowledged that he rescued the men of Sodom by the hand of the Lord, God Most High. He was not afraid to acknowledge the secret of his victory over the five kings. 

Second, Abram tells the king that he will not take the spoils of war lest the king of Sodom should say,
‘I have made Abram rich,’ Therefore he would only take what his young men had eaten, plus he allowed his men to take their portions of the spoils of war.

In other words, Abram was careful to guard the truth that all of his successes were not due to his greatness or to those who had given to him the spoils of war. All of his victories, successes, and even his riches were fruits of God's love and favor to him. He was stating that there was none greater than God. No man and no false God could claim a title that belonged only to Almighty God, the Most High of heaven above and the earth beneath.

What lessons are there for us from this final passage in Genesis 14? Abram is striking at the sin of pride. Probably our most difficult sin to fight is the sin of pride. In pride and arrogance, we want to take the credit for our successes. We want everyone to know and acknowledge how great and awesome we are. 

However, there is only One who is awesome. It is God who made us, directs us, leads us, and guides us all of the days of our lives. All of the great things we do--all of our successes are due to His greatness and glory alone!

Abram understood this; he was careful to give all of the glory for his successes to God Most High. Let us live this day this day to the praise, honor, and glory of our wondrous and faithful God.

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blessing of Melchizedek

And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him a tithe of all.
Genesis 14:7-20, NKJV

Blessing of Melchizedek

The battle is done, Abram and his soldiers were victorious, and the four victorious kings meet together for a victory celebration. Then, a most interesting person comes on the scene. Verse 18 tell us, Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.

Does this mean that there were other servants of God besides Abram? Yes! That should not really surprise us. Let it suffice to say that in the Old Testament writings we follow God's working among the Jewish people--the children of Abraham. Does that mean that no other God-fearing people existed? No!

In this case, we find that the King of Salem (an early name for Jerusalem), Melchizadek, was not only the king, but he was also a priest of God Most High. This is not the only place in the Bible that Melchizedek's name appears. We also find his name mentioned in the book of Hebrews which is referring to this very event.

1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. . . .

14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies:
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 7:1-3 and 14-17, NKJV
 
What does this mean? Abram, recognizing Melchizedek as a priest of God, gave to him a tithe. A tithe is always given from the lesser to the greater, so here we find Abram giving a tithe to the one greater than him: Melchizedek.

We also find the name of Melchizedek in the book of Psalms.

The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalm 110:4, NKJV 

Psalm 110 is a Messianic Psalm referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 7, quoting this passage in verse 17, tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ is not only a descendant of the Davidic kings, but He is also a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

What is the significance of this? The Davidic kings, from the tribe of Judah, had a beginning and an end, but the Lord Jesus Christ, being God, has no beginning and no end. Just as we have no genealogy given for Melchizedek, so he represents Christ who had no beginning and no end and reigns forever. As a matter of fact, Christ is even sitting a the right hand of God, right now, reigning as our great Lord and King.

So, right here in the 14th chapter of Genesis, we have some amazing doctrinal statements regarding our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who is the Greatest High Priest forever and the Greatest King who lives and rules forever.

Yet, this same Lord Jesus cares about each and every one of His children. Right now, He is sitting at the right hand of God making intercession for us. Go to Him, today, while the day of salvation is still at hand. He is the only One who can pay the great debt of our sins before a righteous and holy God. Cry out to Him to save you. Then, love Him, serve Him, and worship Him, alone. May He be your Great High Priest and King forever and ever.

God Bless You,
Linda