There are so many things that struck me about today’s reading I am going to go chapter by chapter.
I believe 16:2c is phrased the way it is for a reason,
“And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai” (italics/bold mine).
This phrase “listened to the voice” conveys more than just the meaning of hearing the words, it means to also pay attention and embrace the thought, the concept, the way of acting.
God said to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife” (Gen. 3:17)
And you can find many other instances of this phrase in the Bible and it always involves an action related to or inaction in response to a specific concept/belief.
What is the “voice” or belief Abram listened to in this case?
“Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children.” (16:2a).
The worst thing Abram did was not the act of sleeping with Hagar, yes this was bad, but it was the belief that lead to this wrong action that was really the sin. The belief that God could not do what He had promised He would do for Abram without the help of alternate methods, in this case Hagar. Most of our sins are not the great wrong we do, the great wrong we do is “listening to the voice” of the devil that leads to those wrong actions. We often focus on the actions, but just like in Genesis 3 God doesn’t say to Adam “because you ate the fruit from the serpent.” No the action is what happened outward, God cares about what took place inward, and so He said to Adam “Because you listened to the voice (the untruth, the doubt, the lie) or your wife” So when Genesis 16:2c tells us “And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai” rather than getting caught-up in the question, “How could she even suggest this?” or “What is Abram thinking he is a fool.” The bigger lesson for us is don’t listen to the lies that ultimately lead to the illicit acts of sin.
I am slightly hesitant to make this next point but…
Ishmael for those that may not know is the Father of the people that became Islam in the Middle-East, why I am hesitant to point that out is because of the prophecy that then comes to Hagar about her unborn son,
“He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” (16:12)
The conflict in the Middle-East should not surprise us, it was prophesied. Nor should we think that man made ways are going to overrule the prophecies of God. They may bring temporal peace, which is good, but eventually the turmoil will stir again. Also I want us to understand the prophecy is stated in both ways,
- “His hand will be against everyone” = sometimes the conflict will be because of Ishmael’s offspring.
- “And everyone’s hand will be against him” = sometimes the conflict will be because of us!
We can’t blame it ALL on Islam!!!!
This is a giant testimony of grace…Abram gets what he doesn’t deserve.
- God does not give-up on Abraham even though he had doubted God and tried to “help Him out”
- God does not give-up on Abraham even when He LAUGHS at God! (17:17)
What a patient and long-suffering God we serve!
Circumcision (17:10-14)—just the thought of circumcision at the age of these individuals sends chills down the spine of every man!
I want to make a separate point about this, besides just the pain.
Of course this outward sign takes place in relation to the male reproductive organs because Abram doubted that God could give Him a baby, in this sign there is a constant reminder of this idea, “God is the creator, He is the one that ultimately gives life.”
Now I want us to think about that for a moment.
In the Garden of Eden there was an outward sign of trust in God as Creator, “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” “I the Lord have made all this and since I made this and you trust Me to know what is best for you. But so you have choice I will put in the garden a tree. Trust your Creator, or…”
The outward sign of loyalty to God in the garden was in relation to creation.
Then came circumcision which we already saw is in relationship to physical creation, but now jump past circumcision to the outward sign of loyalty in the New Testament…
And what did baptism symbolize?
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:1-7)
Baptism is a symbol of rebirth or recreation.
When we are baptized we are saying more than just we accept Jesus, we are saying, “I trust that Jesus can make me knew, He can recreate me!”
Baptism is therefore us trusting The Lord to be our Creator or rather our ReCreator.
Now jump ahead to Revelation 14—
“And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (Revelation 14:6, 7)
There is in this end time message a direct allusion to the 4th Commandment. Why is this significant? Because Revelation 14:12 then tells us what the outward sign will be of those that will embrace this message in the last days,
“Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)
The outward sign is in relation to keeping the commandments of God. And what commandment was specifically referenced in Revelation 14 that would have context to Revelation 12? The 4th Commandment, which is the commandment of what? The Sabbath Commandment, and what is the Sabbath Commandment to remind us of according to Exodus 20?
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Ex. 20:8-11)
It is to remind us of our Creator.
Throughout history God has given to His people an outward sign of an inward understanding of our trust in Him as the Creator and ReCreator.
- The tree in the garden
And in the last days the outward sign will be…
4. The Sabbath
18:26-33 we see Abrahams negotiation with God for Sodom and Gomorrah and what struck me in this negotiation is how just a few righteous folk can impact an entire city…
They don’t in this case, but God is willing to protect (bless) the entire city just based on a few. Imagine the impact then we could have on our city if we truly walk with God?
I sometimes think about the questions I want to ask folk when I get to Heaven. In this chapter one of them is developed, “Abraham why did you stop the negotiations at 10? Why not ask, ‘but for just one Lord?’” I wonder what he will say.
This chapter actually shows us no ones heart was totally sold out for the Lord and yet the Lord shows mercy. Even as Lot needs to leave the city, “he hesitated” (19:16) but the angels took him by the hand and the wife and the daughters and dragged them out of the city. But here is what is so fascinating and again shows the power of our spiritual influence that may even safe as place of safety for some ‘till they figure out their need for the Lord,
“Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.” (19:29)
It was not Lot’s goodness that spared his life…it was Abrahams righteousness! Can I tell you this motivates me to ask Jesus to take all of my heart, not just for me, but for my children potentially someday. Not that their eternal destiny can be decided by me…each one must choose that for themselves…but maybe my life and my prayers and my appeals to God will have some protection over them if they wander close to a place they should not be.
19:26 has a very interesting phrase in it,
“But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”
“From behind him” in my mind this just struck me. As spouses we need to walk together, to protect each other. “The two shall become one” this is not just for companionship, it is also for protection. The Bible could have phrased this, “But his wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” In fact this is how I thought it was phrased. But no under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses, the writer of Genesis…who wasn’t there to see it so he wouldn’t know these very fine details, but he’s inspired to add, “his wife, from behind him” Lot was not being a good husband, a strong spiritual leader in his family!
Which is seen and taken to an entirely higher level in the last verses of chapter 19. Verses 30-38 I hope make all our stomachs turn, and out of this act there was forever a reminder of this despicable sin, Moab and Ammon the countries were forever a thorn in the flesh of God’s people…sin has far reaching consequences.
So those are my thoughts. Sorry this was so much longer than normal, but I was seeing things I had not seen before in these chapters and wanted to share them with y’all!
Tomorrow’s reading: Joshua 21-24