The truth that God’s Word is living and active fleshes out in many practical ways, but there is one way which, to me, is really exciting.
Usually, whether during personal study or a sermon or a bible study, the subject has a main idea and focus. Sometimes, though, God is pleased to cause a completely different truth to, in a sense, jump out at us. I liken it to the disciples who mused that their hearts “burned within” them as a disguised Jesus talked with them. Surely this is what they felt! It is a knowing, a burning in the soul that will not be ignored. Our God – the consuming fire as he refers to himself – is speaking. God is speaking. God is speaking.
And he is speaking directly to us, individually.
Before everyone packs up and heads for the hills, I should add the disclaimer that no, not all tangents from the appropriated lesson are words from the Almighty. Let’s face it, sometimes we are just daydreaming or so deaf and dull that we are severely disinterested in what is being taught us from the scriptures. Therefore, these things are marked by 1. being true and 2. corresponding with what the rest of the Bible teaches. I am not talking about Susie’s mystical hour of cultish extrabiblical revelation and flippant use of the terms “God told me” or “God said” thus and so. I’m talking about Holy Spirit inspired understanding of the scriptures in a way – albeit an orthodox way – in which one has not understood or recognized beforehand. This is one way God teaches his children through the Holy Spirit.
Anyway, this happened to me last night. I was sitting, listening to Beth Moore speak on the tabernacle and as she began to read a passage from Hebrews 6, a verse that I had never considered in any kind of extraordinary way “burned” in my heart and mind.
Afterward, I had a difficult time tracking with her because this verse so puzzled me. It says this:
“And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.” Hebrews 6:15 (emphasis mine)
The second I heard that verse read I began to question what on earth it could possibly mean. Thoughts move rather quickly when attempting to apply logic. The first thought I had was to take the verse at face value. Abraham did thus and so and the effect was obtaining the blessing. Suddenly, my logic came to a screeching halt. I began to break down the verse with my historically centered thinking cap on. The progression went something like this: Did Abraham wait patiently? Did he? He did?! He did not! This cannot be a face value kind of verse.
Abraham. A childless man whom God called to father a great nation at age 75. Yes, he believed God. He even moved without a clue where he was going just because God said so. But Abraham, in my estimation was anything but patient! Why does the scripture call him patient? And let’s not even get started on how full of doubt and fear this man often proved to be. Yet God called him both righteous and patient?!
Why? How? How is this possible and if it is possible is there hope for an impatient, anxiety-ridden, stressed out doubter like me?
I looked over the story of Abraham spanning from Genesis 12 – 21. This is the time between the call and the promise and the first fruits of fulfillment with the birth of Issac.
From the time God called Abraham until Issac was born was 25 years. Twenty-five. That is a long time boys and girls. Hold on to your hope.
After God called, Abraham obeyed. The next thing he did was lie. He rolled his wife under the bus to save himself. Apparently that did not faze God or his promise. Consider the mercy in this verse:
“And for her sake he dealt well with Abram…” Genesis 12:16
For her sake. God cares about the spouses of doubting, sin stuck, insecure men and women.
Next, Abraham questions. Hey. It’s been a long while since that promise, God. No son here. What’s the deal?
In his mercy, God confirms his promise and Abraham believes him. Unfortunately, Abraham and Sarah decide they should “help” God fulfill his promise. In other words, even though they believed God, they did not trust him. Moreover, they trusted themselves more. Talk about a split personality! I feel you, Abe. Abraham has an illegitimate son born out of – you guessed it – his own self-sufficiency, unbelief, and sin.
Finally, God again confirms his promise, giving detail this time. He tells Abraham and Sarah how and when the promise will be fulfilled. This is twenty-four years and a whole lot of impatient waiting after the promise was made.
Still, Abraham feared. Even after the confirmation and the details were given, Abraham again lied about his wife and said she was his sister. He says this:
Abraham said, “I did it because I thought,‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. ~Genesis 20:11-12
Funny how Abraham justified his disobedience to God by pointing at others’ disobedience to God. He accuses his enemies of not fearing God when all the while he is the one actually failing to fear God and obey him. If Abraham believed the promise, how could he have simultaneously feared imminent death? He did. He lied to avoid being killed on account of his beautiful wife.
Finally, Issac is born, which was of course only the beginning of the fulfillment. God blessed in the exact way he said he would. Abraham is counted both righteous and patient. Is that amazing to anyone else? Does Abraham’s behavioral history seem patient to you? As the mechanic says, are you pickin’ up what I’m layin’ down?
Skip to Hebrews 11:8-12. Abraham and Sarah believed God. They did not obey perfectly by any means. They made a manure load of mistakes. But they went when God said, “Go.” They believed despite all odds. They left their world behind and sought God. They doubted. They feared. They even laughed at God’s ridiculous news. But it was all true. Nothing they did wrong disparaged God’s absolute determination to keep his promises to them. And at the end, God honors Abraham calling him righteous and patient.
That is an amazing God. That is a God of great, great mercy. Do you see Him? Surely he is good.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. ~Psalm 103:8-14