Monday, May 18, 2009

A Dead Body and an Occupied Land

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great." And Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir." Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir. And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:1-6 NASB

God called Abram to go deeper into his walk of faith. He asks Abram to believe that his descendents will indeed come from his and Sara’s aging bodies and will be innumerable. God tells him to lift his eyes to the heavens and look at the stars. The Lord knows that we need to refocus from our own deficiencies to His creative magnificence. As Abraham looks up, he believes the One who put the stars in place and God, in His incredible grace, counts Abram as righteous.

God speaks to Abraham again in Genesis 15:7-8 and He said to him, "I am the LORD (the self-existent one) who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it." Abraham’s reply is a cry, "O Lord GOD, how may I know that I shall possess it?" When I looked up the word “possess” I found the meaning shed light on Abram’s need of assurance. It means, “To occupy by driving out previous tenants and possessing in their place.” It was a term of possession by aggression. Those living in the land are named in verses 19-21 and they will have to be driven out.

Here is the paradox:
On the human level we see Abraham's body described “as good as dead” in Hebrews 11:12, but God promises him fruitfulness beyond comprehension. He is promised a land that happens to be occupied by ten groups who were there first. No wonder Jesus words in Luke 1:37 “Nothing shall be impossible with God,” are recorded five different times in the gospels. The mysterious ways of God are always calling us to believe Him for the impossible.

There seems to be a pattern in Scripture that God makes a promise and then allows them to turn to ashes. A few examples that come to mind:

· God gives Joseph dreams of such prestige that his whole family bows in honor to him. Thanks to his family, Joseph ends up a slave in Egypt unfairly accused and thrown in jail.
· Moses is told that God will use him to deliver Israel out of Egypt only to see their burdens increased when he confronts Pharaoh.
· David is anointed future king of Israel. He spends years being chased by the current jealous king; living in caves and constantly fleeing for his life.

Why does God work this way? James MacDonald’s words ring in my heart. “God’s love is a perfecting love, not a pampering love.” As the old hymn writer says, “Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas?” Hebrews puts it bluntly, Hebrews 5:8 “Although He was a son; He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” God is perfecting our character and developing humility in our hearts. He wants to open the heavens and pour out every spiritual blessing into His children who, “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.” Psalm 100:3 There are no self-made men in God’s kingdom; but there are heroes described for us in Hebrews 11:33-34 men and women, “
who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, (and) put foreign armies to flight.”

We know that all the stories listed above end just the way God promised because we’ve read the “rest of the story.” Can we trust His mysterious ways even though we have not reached the end of our story? Do His promises to you seem to be receding instead of proceeding? Take courage; you are not alone. You are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) cheering you on to stand firm, look up, and believe the One who is believable.

MY PRAYER: Lord, I know that without faith it is impossible to please you. Though any promise should tarry, I will look up in anticipation to the Faithful One. You are the fulfillment of every promise. In Jesus' name, amen.

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