GOD PROVIDES A BRIDE

It had been a long time since Abraham’s servant, Eliezer went with the camels. He had left to go to the land God called Abraham from to find a bride for Isaac.

Now Isaac, having been gazing down the path each day, sees the camels coming. He catches a glimpse of a gorgeous young woman sitting on the camel’s back just before she covers her face with a veil.
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Eliezer stood at the well and prayed, “Let the girl to whom I say, ‘Please lower your water jug so that I may drink,’ and who responds, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels also’ — let her be the one you have appointed for your servant Isaac’” (Genesis‬ ‭24:14‬).

A girl approached. Eliezer made the request. The thirsty 10 Camels sucked up the water in seconds after each bucket was emptied in the trough before them. The girl ran back and forth, back and forth, from the well. But she didn’t slow her pace until every camel had filled his 25 gallon stomach.
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Isaac helped the brave Rebecca down from the camel. They went to his tent. The arrangements were made and they were married. Many ups and downs followed, but the God who had brought them together was always there for them.

We learn from this intriguing story that God has a plan for each of our lives. He even wants to arrange who we should marry. Yes, an arranged marriage by none other than our Father God. The Lord wants to guide our steps through life. He wants to be there for us. Furthermore, the Lord is preparing a bride, his church, to meet him in the clouds at the appointed time and then live forever with him. Are you spiritually ready? Are you a part of that bride?

THE ULTIMATE TEST, THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE

Abraham and his son, Isaac, make their way up the mountain in the land of Moriah. All the forces of heaven and hell are looking on with intense interest. Will Abraham stand the test and actually offer his son on an altar as God has told him to do? If he does, what will become of God’s promise to fulfill his covenant of blessing through Isaac? And is there a deeper significance to this than just testing Abraham?

Isaac carries the wood for the burnt offering. [Jesus one day will be carrying his cross up this same mountain.] Isaac asks, “Where is the lamb?” [Jesus will ask in the Garden of the necessity to be the lamb.] Isaac learns he is to be the lamb and submits to his father’s will. [Jesus will submit to to his father’s will to be the ultimate lamb on the cross.]

Now Isaac lays bound on the altar. Abraham raises the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord calls to him from heaven and says, “Abraham, Abraham!… Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me” (Genesis‬ ‭22:11-12‬). Abraham sees a ram caught in the thicket by its horns and offers it as a burnt offering in place of his son.

Here’s where the two narratives part. Jesus did not come down from the cross as Isaac did from the altar. Jesus died on the cross for us, a fulfillment of Abraham’s word, “God himself will provide the lamb.” Jesus provided the ultimate sacrifice causing all sacrifices and offerings to cease (see Daniel 9:27). God would never again call for animal sacrifices.

The comparison extends further: Isaac was brought back alive from his submission to death. [Jesus arose from the grave having conquered death.] Abraham stood the test. [Jesus not only stood the test; he paid the price for our salvation].

God’s love reached out and discovered the cross as a means to lay our sin on Jesus, so we could go free. This amazing story of Abraham and Isaac together experiencing the trauma of knowing Isaac’s life had to be offered should deeply resonate with all of us. Let it give us a window to the awesome price Father and Son paid for our redemption.

 

 

GOD MUST LIKE TO MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH

The very idea! God made 99 year old Abram laugh when he told him his 90 year old wife would bare him a son. Then later the angel made Sarai laugh when he confirmed what God had promised. When the promised son was born Sarai laughingly declared that God had given everyone reason to laugh with her.

God brought this awesome blessing to Abram and Sarai. They were overjoyed to receive Isaac, a child they had longed for all of their married lives. Through this boy God would raise up the mighty nation that he had been promising Abram over and over. God’s great covenant of blessing would be fulfilled through him.

But the couple had to laugh. Every time they thought about the birth they laughed. Whenever they told others about the birth they all laughed. And every time people observed the elderly couple with the young child there was laughter all around.

Down through the centuries since, people have laughed when they heard the story. Like Sarai said would happen, people laugh with her. Not at her. What a joyful story to read in the Bible. Evidently God loves to make people laugh. Evidently he knows it is good for them.

Be sure to take your share of laughter. If you feel a little grumpy today, think about the oldest couple you know having a baby and laugh. You will have a better day.

 

 

 

OVERCOMING FEARS

What great comfort and peace! Our God solicits us to place full confidence in him. He promises to shield us, to protect us. The Lord also promises to reward us. Notice these are very general promises.

Would it not be better to have a promise of protection from a specific danger? And would it not be more palatable to know we were going to partake of a well-defined reward? Not really! The general promise is all encompassing. We are left with the privilege to fill in the blanks.

For Abram, God had just enabled him to pursue and conquer a coalition army of five kings who had carried away his nephew, Lot, and many others who lived in Sodom. Abram rescued all the people and the goods the army had carried away.

So when the Lord made this promise of protection and reward, he was actually saying, “see Abram, by what I just did for you, you can know I am going to be there for you every time you have a need or a challenge.”

It is natural to build up more fear every time we experience danger. But when we have God in the picture, we can build up confidence rather than build up fear.

Oh! I know we often build up fears and phobias over time – of certain perceived real or unreal dangers. But God reaches out his hand to us as he says, “Do not fear…. I am your shield; Your reward will be very great.”

Grab his hand! Cling to his promises and go forward in confidence. Every time you win a victory over a specific fear, the more the general assurance will grow and you will be on your way to healing.

THE ALTAR OF GREAT FAITH-EXPECTATIONS

Do we want to settle for common blessings and small service to the Lord? Or do we want to stretch ourselves to greater faith expectations?

Abram had just made a deal with his nephew, Lot. The area where they each were feeding their large flocks of sheep was not big for them. So good-hearted Abe let Lot go east to the well watered plain with the most grass while he stayed in the mountains.

“After Lot had separated from him, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you are. Look north and south, east and west, for I will give you and your offspring forever all the land that you see. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust of the earth, then your offspring could be counted” (‭Genesis‬ ‭13:14-16‬).

By this we see Abram’s faith was growing and God was expanding his promise to him as Abram continued to offer himself to the Lord. In the process Abram moved to Mamre and built another altar of thanksgiving and praise to further develop his fellowship with God.

The Lord really wants to do great things through his people. As we continue to offer ourselves to his service on the altar of living sacrifice, he makes us more and more a blessing to others and expands our joy. He causes us to go forward with great faith expectations.

 

BACK FROM STRAYING, TO THE ALTAR

Back to the promised land from a misguided tour to Egypt, Abram approached the altar he had built near Bethel. He had gone to Pharaoh’s country to escape a famine, but things had not gone so well. The memory of a great embarrassment must have been gnawing away at him.

Had he trusted God for the famine, he would not have left the land of promise. Getting out of God’s will had led to mass confusion in his relationship with the Lord. He had felt compelled to trust his own ingenuity.

Surely the people of the land would kill him to get his gorgeous wife, Sarai, if they knew she was his wife. Consequently he got her to agree to say she was his sister. After all, she was his half sister. But upon hearing this half truth from Sarai, Pharaoh took her in preparation to make her his wife.

What indignity to Sarai! How embarrassing it was to be rebuked by Pharaoh after he discovered the full truth and gave Sarai back. The ungodly king dealt from a higher moral plane than he.

But now Abram was back to the land where the Lord had called him to live out his relationship with his Redeemer. He needed to call on God. How reassuring and refreshing it was to be back in fellowship with the Lord. Can we learn from Abram’s experience?

Let’s come back to the altar, to calling on God, and to living out God’s will if we have strayed. In any case we need to regularly call on God.

AN ALTAR FOR CALLING ON THE LORD

We need an altar to call on God — an altar of offering our “bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans‬ ‭12:1‬) to the Lord. Yes. An altar is for sacrifice. And when we call on the Lord from the altar of living sacrifice we can be certain the Lord will hear us and answer our prayers.

When Abram built the first altar, the one by the oak tree, the Lord had just appeared to him to tell him the place he had come to was the land the Lord had promised. Quite obviously the altar was one of thanksgiving and offering himself to serve God in this land. This was his worship.

The second altar he built was near Bethel. Abram built this one in preparation for calling on God. The altar signified he was hungry for fellowship with God and anxious to offer himself to whatever service the Lord might require.

If we call on the Lord apart from offering ourselves a living sacrifice to his will, we will be praying selfishly — out of his will. But if we cry to the Lord from an altar of desire to better serve him, he will give us the desires of our hearts. And the blessings that flow our way will be just what we need to live out abundant life.

Not all the blessings will be spiritual. He will bless us with finances and material goods to the extent we can glorify him with these things. God blessed Abram with material goods. But his greatest blessing was the privilege to call on God and fellowship with him.

WE ALL NEED AN ALTAR

When Abram arrived in Canaan, the land of promise, the Lord made a special appearance to him. This prompted Abram to build an altar and this became a pattern. The Lord would appear to him at strategic times and he would build an altar. The altar was used to offer sacrifice. It symbolized Abram offering himself unreservedly to God.

We all need an altar. We need to come to an altar point periodically where we renew and deepen our commitment to God. This could involve a special physical place. But the real significance of the altar is a point where we yield to what God is calling us to.

As we walk and talk with the Lord, he calls us to witness for him in various ways to people he brings our way.. He challenges us to greater and higher spiritual planes. The Lord calls us to love him more. He draws us to greater works and commitment.

All of these strategic points of realizing God calling us to greater things requires the sacrifice of saying yes to the Lord. The song goes, “I’ll say yes, Lord yes, to your will and to your way. I’ll say yes, Lord yes, to your will and to your way.” This yes develops our covenant with the Lord, increasing our awareness of his care and provision as we yield more and more to him.

We will follow Abraham’s altar points in the next few days to enhance our understanding of an altar relationship with the Lord.

CALLED OUT FROM THE WORLD

Ten generations after Noah and the flood, people were back to corrupting themselves and society was going downhill again. And again God had to do something drastic to keep mankind from totally annihilating themselves and losing all knowledge of God.

This time God would choose a different remedy than a flood, but he would choose a man who had a heart for God like Noah. This man would be willing to leave his relatives and the society he had grown up in. He would also be willing to follow God without knowing where the Lord was going to take him. He would have faith to believe he could father a great nation in the new land, a people separated from ungodly society.

God called Abram, whom he later named Abraham, out from the wicked society. The mighty nation of Israel he fathered carried the banner of truth across the years and gave us the Savior.

God still calls his people out from the world today. In 2 Corinthians 6:17 he commands, “Come out from among them and be separate.” The idea of becoming like the world so we can win them to Christ is all wrong.

God calls us to live separated unto God; separated from the lust of the flesh (sensualism); from the lust of the eyes (materialism); from the pride of life (humanism) – see 1 John 2:16. These three constitute the operative drives of the world and produce “the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar” (Galatians 5:19-21).

God’s people function on faith, hope, and love and produce “the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬). (The operative drives of the world are perversions of these: Sensualism is perverted love, materialism is perverted hope. Humanism is perverted faith).

However, in the New Testament dispensation, we are intended to influence the world much more than the Old Testament people did. We are to infiltrate and influence the world as witnesses of Jesus through the fruit of the Spirit. But we are not to be a part of the operative drives and works of the general society. In being separated to the Lord we can change the world and bring glory to God.

 

GOD WILL HAVE THE LAST WORD

People full of themselves and devoid of God’s love decided on a venture to bring the community of Shinar together. They wanted to build a name for themselves. They were not interested in bringing glory to God. But their lack of God’s love prevented them from having the unity they needed.

No doubt each person in Shinar was speaking his own language in his heart before God confused their words. Each one was in it for himself. When they began speaking words unintelligible to each other they reflected what was already in their hearts.

The worst of the Shinar project was they were trying to be great in their own strength and show they didn’t need God. God only allows people to go so far in their rebellion. How foolish it is to defy him. For he will have the last word, both in this life and the next.