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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Abraham, My Friend_33

Abraham, My Friend
The Making of a Praying Man_33

ready, steady, wait

It is amazing to see how often exhilarating mountain top experiences are followed by the testings in the valley. Paradise and Adam’s receiving of his wife is followed by his testing by Satan. David’s final conquest of his enemies and his enthronement is followed by his testing regarding Uriah’s wife. Elijah’s triumph over the priests of Baal is followed by his testing in the face of Jezebel’s death threat. Peter’s supreme moment of revelation in Matthew 16 is followed by the most devastating rebuke in history. The awesome experience of the transfiguration mount is followed by the test in the valley with the demoniac. Spurgeon used to tell the story of a trainee mountaineer who scaled a Swiss peak in the company of his guide. In a moment of exhilaration he stood upright on the mountain’s summit and was immediately buffeted by the mountain winds. “Down” cried the guide “down on your knees, for God’s sake, man. It’s the only safe place up here on the mountain top”.

To pass from Genesis 15 into Genesis 16 is to pass from the mountain top into the depths of a deep valley. How could this have happened to Abraham, God’s friend? How could he have missed the track so soon? There is a telling juxtaposition of ideas in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians ;Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1Co 10:11-13 KJV) The truth can be expressed in a single statement; never forget your frailty and God’s faithfulness. There’s a helpful reminder too here of one of the purposes of the scripture; Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition... Their disasters were recorded for our benefit.

We left Abraham in his deep sleep, watching and listening to deep mysteries. He awoke and normal life resumed. This is what Oswald Chambers would have called ‘the test of the mundane’. Abraham had witnessed amazing things and then… nothing happened. That day came to an end and the next began and …nothing happened. Does this sound familiar? He has received wonderful revelation but life just goes on… The narrative of Christ’s life has a thrilling glimpse of his audience with the nation’s teachers; he was twelve years old. He had a sense of stewardship and the knowledge of His true father. He knew the will of God better than any in the land, and for the next 18 years he swept up woodshavings in Joseph’s carpenter’s workshop. Strange, aren’t they, God’s ways of doing things? We get folks all hyped up and we say ‘go, go, go’. God overawes us with stupendous revelation and says ‘now wait’.

Sarah’s biological clock is ticking, and so is Abraham’s. Time is passing something must be done. Frustration is me wanting to be God. It is an expression of the instinct ‘not thy will be done, but mine’. Beware the impulse to ‘do something’. Here’s a little linguistic trivia; the relatively new Hebrew word "frustration" did not appear in Hebrew until the mid-seventies, and in fact, before it was absorbed into the language, people who spoke only Hebrew were never "frustrated". They may have been "angry" or "disappointed" but never “frustrated”. It is a pity it ever appeared in the English language; it conceals the truth. Try this; the next time you are tempted to “frustration” use a different word. Use the word ‘angry’ or ‘disappointed’. Then ask the question, “with whom am I angry/disappointed”. You may well find that the answer is ‘God’. Beware the temptation to ‘have to do something, because nobody else will’; it may mean God isn’t doing this, so I will. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (Jam 1:19-20 KJV)

The amazing thing is that Sarah knew that it was God who had closed her womb; And Sarai said to Abram, Behold now, Jehovah has shut me up, that I do not bear. Go in, I pray thee, to my maidservant: it may be that I shall be built up by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. (Gen 16:2 Darby). It can be such a temptation to ‘break out’ when God ‘has shut you up’. The word translated ‘shut up’ here is ‘enclosed’ (‛âtsar). It is good to trace the Old Testament use of this word. It is the word used to describe God’s will at work; And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you. (Deu 11:17 KJV) or the role of a shepherd-king; When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said to him, "Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people." (1Sa 9:17 NASB). Literally, in the last case, he shall enclose my people. Here’s another little nugget; Job and Satan came to God with the same complaint. Satan said; Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. (Job 1:10 KJV). Job said; Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in? (Job 3:23 KJV). Here Satan and Job bring the same complaint; God has ‘enclosed’ Job. Satan says “it’s not fair I can’t in” and Job says “it’s not fair, I can’t get out”. It was a unique privilege of Israel that God … planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it… (Mar 12:1 KJV) God had ‘hedged in’ Sarah, but she found a way out and the name of the escape route was ‘Hagar’.

There was nothing wrong, morally, with this expediency; not in that day and culture. Sarah could legitimately ‘build up’ her family through her slave girl. And Abraham’s action too was not immoral according to his day and light; Hagar became his ‘wife’; (Gen 16:3) The folly of this action was caused by a combination of Sarah’s determination and Abraham’s passivity. An English writer once wrote that “there is almost nothing that is impossible to a determined woman”; you understand that I am just quoting this writer’s observation. (my wife reads these columns ) In fact, I agree with it, and I mean nothing defamatory to woman when I say it. A woman often seems to have a capacity for tenacity which is extraordinary. Shall I illustrate my point? How many women have ‘stood by their man’ when he has become an abusive drunkard? How many men have done the same for their woman? I rest my case. Tenacity is a great virtue unless it is another name for stubbornness. It was tenacity added to rebellion that brought down Israel’s first king; For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1Sa 15:23 KJV) Saul’s first sin was ‘refusing to wait’, his second was ‘finding a way of doing what he wanted’ when God had said otherwise. His was Adam’s story, and Sarah’s, repeated.

Over a thousand years after Abraham and Sarah’s do-it-yourself solution Isaiah brought a significant word for God’s people; Woe to the rebellious children, saith Jehovah, that take counsel, but not of me; and that make a league, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin, that set out to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to take refuge in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the refuge in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. (Isa 30:1-3 ASV) This is a graphic description of Judah trying to find a solution to her problems. They have turned to the man-made solutions of Egypt and, supreme folly, have not asked at my mouth. All the time, God had a word for them; For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still. (Isa 30:7 KJV) But Judah would not listen; their plans were made. For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. (Isa 30:15-16 KJV). That word is like the sounding of the death knoll; But ye said, No. In Matthew it became Israel’s epitaph; O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (Mat 23:37-38 KJV) …how often I would… and ye would not.

For Judah God’s word had a gracious and ironical conclusion; And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. (Isa 30:18 KJV) God had said ‘wait, but Judah had said “No”’, so now God says ‘I will wait’. It was God’s unspoken word to Abraham and Sarah too. God ignores Sarah’s stratagems, and ignores the notion that Hagar is Abraham’s ‘wife’. He address Hagar in the way He had always seen her. Sarah’s quick fixes are ignored. Hagar is still “Hagar, Sarah’s maid” [Gen 16:8]

Contrary to their intentions Abraham’s and Sarah’s intention to speed things up may even have delayed them. There is an ominous time gap here; there are 13 silent years in the white space between Genesis 16 and Genesis 17. Although there is an element of chastening in the wait God’s intention is still to bless. He can out-tenacity a Sarah and an Abraham. therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you. As God seeks to make us praying men and women we shall need to be sure that we don’t mistake God’s silences for his assents. Blessed are they that wait for Him. [Isaiah 30:18]

Ron Bailey

 2004/8/19 8:45Profile

Joined: 2003/11/10
Posts: 202
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

 Re: Abraham, My Friend_33

Hi Ron,
Great Job! It was worth the wait. ;-)

Howard McNeill

 2004/8/19 9:50Profile

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