Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Moses…great heroes of our faith and representations of biblical typology. Through them, we see the foreshadowing of Christ personified. These men of faith provide a glimpse of who Jesus is, allowing us to see the pages of Scripture come alive. The Bible is simple for us to read, yet complex in order that it never grows dull or old.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;Lamentations 3:22-23
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
In Exodus 12, the Israelites finally were released from the enslaved hand of the Pharoah only to be overwhelmed by the vast, Red Sea in Exodus 14. Imagine the horror of it. You watch plague after plague and the death of the Egyptian’s firstborn. You see the mighty hand of God upfront and personal. Your hope begins to blossom as you think about what it will be like to be free. Totally free. And finally. The day arrives.
Puzzling, I would assume. Why would God work in such a way? But then again, God’s ways are never like our own.
God was up to something even grander than any imagination could fathom or believe. God says, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so” (Ex. 14:4).
The Israelites did not understand that it is in our weakness that He is made strong (see 2 Cor. 12:9-11). With the Egyptian army in hot pursuit behind them and a formidable body of water before them, they began to drown in their own misery. “They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 1Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Ex. 14:11-12).
God often puts us in difficult places so that we reach the end of ourselves and see He is our only option. The exodus is a great illustration of our salvation in Jesus Christ…behind us the army of destruction of our sinfulness, before us the sea of wrath of God. Without Jesus making a way, we would be destroyed.
But there’s more here…I see how God masterfully crafts our own stories so that we see our need for Him. He designs our weak moments, teaching us to rely solely on Him. We often act like the Israelites when we feel overwhelmed. We get cranky. Grouchy. Discouraged. Panicked. Anxious. Angry. Disheartened. Frustrated. Disillusioned. Fearful. Self-dependent. Oh, how we forget to look to Him!
It is in the weak, raw spots that God is working to be revealed. He wants us to not only see His glory but also desires for us to know Him!
Are you willing to allow God to be glorified in your weakness? What does that look like to you?
Jacob runs for his life after lying and conniving to steal his brother’s birthright. And big brother Esau is in hot pursuit after him.
“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”Gen. 27:41
Following the instruction of his parents, Jacob flees from his brother in search of a wife from his parent’s homeland. It is here, in this journey, that we begin to see a transformation of Jacob take place. Read Genesis 29-31.
Two wives and twenty years later, our story continues in Genesis 32. Jacob is returning back home to Canaan with his tribe of people (wife 1 & 2, eleven sons, one daughter, and two female servants–whew, a crew). The fierce rush of adrenaline rapidly descends upon him as he encounters his estranged brother once again. Unfortunately, it appears as if his brother’s anger has not resided. Esau has gathered an army of 400 men (Genesis 32:6).
The doubt and questioning ensue. “But God…you said.” When the wheels start falling off the bus, how quickly we are to blame God. We often assume the will of God translates into a life of ease and comfort. However, God often leads us into difficult waters to teach us to keep our eyes steadfast on Him.
It is tempting to seek God’s direction more so than seeking God Himself. We freak out when problems arise, as is the case for our dear friend Jacob. We argue with God. We doubt. Rather than allowing the frustration to be an opportunity to experience the presence of God.
We must constantly maintain the far superior privilege of knowing God over merely getting something from Him or implementing an action plan….Reorient your focus. Don’t bypass the relationship because you’d rather have answers to your questions.Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God (p. 107)
Jacob thought he was running from Esau.
But discovered he was running from God instead.
Read Genesis 32:22-32. This strange encounter seems relatively unusual at first glance. What we see is a wrestling match between Jacob and a stranger, who winds up being God Himself. Jacob begins the encounter encapsulated with fear and dread about seeing his brother and winds up fighting for a blessing over his life. When God decides the fight is done, he dislocates Jacob’s hip and demands to be let go.
Jacob refuses saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me (v.26).”
Clearly, this persistent attitude pleases God and He responds, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob [deceiver], but Israel [strives with God] for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed (v. 28).”
Pay close attention. When Jacob entered the wrestling floor, he was hesitant to meet his brother Esau. He was restless and afraid. However, after a night of wrestling it out with God, his attention turned to God’s Word…a word of promise and blessing.
The same is true for us. In our seasons of uncertainty, we can take our requests and questions and fears and yes, anger to God. We can wrestle through our challenging times with Him. The ultimate result is for our good–a humbled spirit and peace with God. When God calls you to the wrestling floor…it is an invitation to receive His blessing. Don’t give up until He blesses you!
What do you need today? How desperate are you for it? Will you wrestle it out with God in order to receive a blessing?
We hope in a lot of things, especially around Christmas. We hope for goodwill and peace. We hope the pound of fudge we inhaled won’t end up on our waistline. We hope that the bills won’t stack too high come January. We hope we win the lottery. We hope and we hope.
In reality, our hope is more like wishful thinking. We hope this & that will come true. However, that being said, there is a sort of uncertainty. We really aren’t sure our hopes will come to pass. I mean, we wouldn’t bet our lives on it.
When our hopes are disappointed (as is often the case), a seed of distrust in planted in our heart. We build up little walls for protection. We grow cynical. We have doubts and fears. We build fortresses. We run and hide.
What if our HOPE is wrong?
Read Genesis 27 & 28. Isaac grew up and married Rebekah…and they had two sons. But these two boys had a serious case of sibling rivalry (Genesis 25). They fought about everything! And to make matters worse, their parents played favorites. Isaac loved his outdoorsy Esau and Rebekah adored her mamma’s boy, Jacob.
There was a lot of strife in this home. Dysfunction. Because, like most families, humanity is not always harmonious. And I love how the Bible gives us an honest, real, vulnerable picture into the heart of man.
Because we are man, we often want to deny our own sinfulness. But the Bible keeps pointing us back to take a look inwardly. We are stubborn, selfish, greedy, alienated, prideful, and idolatrous people. When you put us in cramped quarters (like a home), you see the worse of us. A sin-mess.
Isaac is nearing the end of his life. On his deathbed, he asks for his boys to come in for their final blessing. In this culture, the blessing would go to the oldest male. One caveat: Isaac’s eyesight has gone bad. Seizing the moment, Rebekah takes matters into her own hands and convinces the younger son, Isaac, to steal his brother’s blessing. When we fear losing HOPE, we desperately try to fix it. We show our desperation.
Fortunately, in the midst of the mess, God is at work. We can’t mess-up God’s plan. The Bible reveals to us our sinfulness and our powerlessness over and over again. It is showing us our need for a Savior. We can’t “fix” this broken world….only God can.
The Bible reveals our sin-mess so that we can see our need for JESUS. The main theme of the Bible is God’s plan for redemption of a needy, sin-mess people. Without the mess, we have no need for JESUS.
Sin must be seen and powerlessness must be experienced before we really turn to Jesus and embrace his gospel.John Piper
Take heart if everything in your life isn’t perfect. It wasn’t meant to be. Our friend Isaac had to run for his life, in fear of his brother Esau. There is nothing more painful than family discord. This story shows how we are supposed to place our hope in God, not the things of this world. (And if this is you today, don’t lose hope. God can do anything! He can bring sin to the surface so that we see our need for Him. He can use us to demonstrate the Gospel to our loved ones and the world around in the midst of the mess).
Biblical hope is different than that of this world. Biblical hope is based on God. His character. His attributes. His Word. His promises. His faithfulness. This kind of hope is not based on our circumstances, or the nightly news. It is built on a sure foundation of certainty–God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.
As for Isaac, God’s will prevailed. God worked in the midst of the mess to demonstrate His gracious love. God loves turning messes into mercies.
“I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 1Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”Genesis 28:13-15
Are you placing your hope in worldly things? Do you need to replace it with Biblical hope? Do you believe God can work in your current mess to reveal His redemptive mercy?
Note: This blog was influenced by Jared Carter’s sermon at Austin Ridge on December 9, 2019.
The older I become, the more I realize that my story is less about me and more about God. He is writing my narrative. And if I lean into the voice of the Holy Spirit, I can see the story of redemption being penned. My prayer is that you see God working in your life today too.
This is the purpose of God in all that he does in creation and redemption. God’s purpose in all that he does is: to magnify his sovereign grace and keep us in our humble place.John Piper, Desiring God
Read Genesis 22:1-14. God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing.” When Abraham and Sarah were well up in years, Sarah finally gives birth to their long-awaited son, Isaac. There must have been an overwhelming, celebratory, exuberant kind of joy at the birth of their baby boy!
Little did they know…God wasn’t done. There was an even greater test of their faith to come.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”Genesis 22:1-2
As Abraham journeyed to Moriah, he must have felt overwhelmed with emotion. Confusion. Doubt. Anger. A ball all mixed-up, twisted and tied. Why would God ask him to sacrifice his beloved son? There is no way that Abraham could put the pieces together. He had no idea…God was painting a picture, a foreshadowing, of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.John 1:29
God was illustrating to all mankind what justifying faith looks like. God asks us to do many difficult and painful things, but we can be confident that Emmanuel God is with us…even in the hard. It can be scary to trust God when He asks us to do something against our natural instincts and abilities. We can’t always make sense of God. Remember. Reflect. We have a trustworthy, sovereign God.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.James 2:21-23
God provided a ram in the thicket as a substitute sacrifice that particular day of old. But years later, our God would give His one and only Son to pay the ultimate sacrifice for you.
Whatever you are facing today…remember Jesus is with you. The path that Jesus walked here on earth is much harder than anything we have had to endure. He is building in us a persevering faith, the kind that is tested and tried by fire (Romans 4:22-25). When our flesh is weak, ask for help. He is here to help and strengthen you (Isaiah 41:10).
Is there anything God is asking you to offer up to Him? Are you clinching too tight, holding on, rather than giving it over to Him?
I’m thinking about you. As you dash through the day, I wonder what you will encounter. Disgruntled guests. A mess on the floor. Decorations that pale to Pinterest. For some of you, Christmas season brings joy…a time to remember and be thankful. While others will struggle because life is hard…difficult in this very moment.
I think about the possible expectations you have of God. Are you barely holding on? ‘Tis the season of doubt? Or unexpected troubles?
Have you lost hope because of hardship? Are your prayers less than they should be? Have you forgotten about God during this time, as you scurry and worry about?
I think about you. Yes, I do. And my prayer is that you remember…Emmanuel, God with us. He is with us always and forever. In sending us Jesus, God is saying, “I haven’t forgotten you for a second.”
Since therefore the children [believers, children of God] share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devilHebrews 2:14
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood,
God sent us Jesus because He loves us so. Let us be reminded. “For God so loved the world that He sent us [JESUS]” (Jn 3:16). As a child of God, we have been hand-chosen by Him. Adopted. Set Apart. God had our salvation in view when He sent us His Son. Oh…the thought of this makes my heart twitter.
You were chosen by God the Father long ago. He knew you were to become His children. You were set apart for holy living by the Holy Spirit. May you obey Jesus Christ and be made clean by His blood. May you be full of His loving-favor and peace.1 Peter 1:2
“He himself likewise partook of the same things,
Jesus is the face of God. Deity becoming man so that we would know Him. Jesus is fully God, yet fully man. Although this truth is difficult to grasp, it is a basic tenet of our faith and part of Scripture. Jesus is relatable because He suffered as we do here on earth.
“that through death”
God became man so that He could die for our sins. Christmas is the predecessor to Easter. The two walk hand-in-hand. Christmas proclaims, “The RESCUER has come”, whereas Easter says, “It is finished. You are REDEEMED.”
“he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil”
The devil’s greatest weapon against us is our sin. But, Jesus came and put an end to sin by dying on the cross. He paid our death penalty. The penalty that the devil tries to accuse us of every single day is dead.
What does this all mean?
We don’t have to wallow in our sin! We are guilt-free. There is no shame or condemnation. We have been set free! And we can walk in freedom with our head held high because we have been justified. And the devil can’t steal our salvation away.
So, go ahead, live differently…indebted…grateful…free.
What is stealing your joy? What biblical truth to you need to believe today?
Sin. It mucked things up. It is THE THING we wrestle with every day of our lives. It causes us such distress and harm. And inwardly we know, “This isn’t how things are supposed to be.”
Adam and Eve cave. They take a bite. And at the very beginning of humanity, sin enters in. And if we end the story here (as so many do)…we would miss the story of JESUS unfolding before our eyes. By stopping short, there is no hope. The lost believe this earthly world is the end.
Read Genesis 3: 8-13. The remainder of Scripture serves as a story of how God overcomes and rescues us from sin by sending His Son, JESUS, who is the face of God. And in the coming days, we will look at various accounts of Scripture that depict our fallenness of man and the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. A love for His people to partake in His glory (John 1:3). But not only to be partakers (observers, beneficiaries), but also to savor and enjoy Him through a personal encounter.
This is the purpose for Advent. To experience Jesus anew. To open our eyes to who He is and who we are. To realize that we were made to see and savor His glory. That is my prayer for all of you! I pray that you will relish, delight in, treasure, and love Jesus more!
God shows up. And ahhhh…this might be my favorite verses in the Bible.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?Genesis 3:8-9
God doesn’t leave. He doesn’t withdraw. He doesn’t throw His hands up in the air. Instead, he “passes over our sin” (Rom. 3:25) as a foretelling of someone who would take our place on the cross. Throughout the pages of Scripture…with every turn…we are seeing glimpses of JESUS.
We are seeing God calling us into a personal relationship. Not because of anything we have done or ever could do. Simply because He wants to. God desires to have an intimate, private, one-on-one kind of relationship with YOU!
[Jesus said] I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 2I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”John 17:20-26
May our love for JESUS grow so deep that it overflows by leaps and bounds to those around us so that they see JESUS too! I pray our love goes way beyond our half-hearted human capacities, enticing others to want to know what we have.
Are you spending time with God daily? Are you savoring in His love and glory? If not, what needs to change?
Here’s what “Crafty” does NOT mean:
- His favorite store was Michael’s
- He had a huge Pinterest following
- He knew how to knit like my grandmother
The Hebrew word for crafty is arum, meaning subtle, shrewd, sly, or sensible. We are given a depiction of Satan as someone who could pull the wool over your eyes. A smooth talker. A liar (John 8:44). One who doesn’t have your best interest in mind.
Satan, a fallen angel (Jude 1:6), desires to have power and authority over God. Satan continues to lead this rebellion today and bring many with him. He desires to be fully exalted to the position that only belongs to God. In his attempt to deceive and tempt, He subtly asks Eve, “Did God actually say? (v. 3)”
Then doubt creeps in. Takes root. And grows.
As I ponder this initial sin, I am reminded of the sin in my own life. How I am tempted to doubt God. Is God really good? Does He truly love me? Are His words true? Can I trust Him? Why is being a Christian so hard? Like Eve, it is tempting to look to the tangible things of this world for our hope and security. It is tantalizing to try to control our lil’ ole’ worlds. It is desirous to jump on the bandwagon of materialism for Christmas. But if I do, would God be pleased? Would the longings of my soul be satisfied?
When we try to fill our longings with anything other than God, we will come up empty-handed. The serpent’s promise to “be like god” (v. 5) is something we all wrestle with. We wrestle with control. We think God is holding out on us. If we could, we would run our lives differently.
- If I made more money, I would be satisfied.
- If my marriage was better, I would be happy.
- If I didn’t wrestle with my weight, then I wouldn’t feel insecure.
- If my health was better, I would feel complete.
- If I had more free time, I could live my dream.
- If I…….
It is important that we understand the doctrine of sin. Sin is what has caused the disruption in God’s original design. Sin and its consequences have resulted in a broken relationship with God. But thankfully, this story is not done! God does not abandon us here. He sends us Jesus to overcome sin and its consequences through the gift of salvation. Jesus is God’s answer to the problem of sin. This is why Christmas is such a big deal!
We have a tendency to minimize or side-step our own depravity. However, in doing so, we also are making little of what God has done for us. So, I challenge you today…reflect within. Search your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your sin.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.Psalm 139:23-24
Where do you seek satisfaction?
Read Genesis 2. God creates and places man in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Then He gives Adam a command, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (v. 17-18). This command was for their good. Their protection. The boundaries of God are to keep us out of harm’s way.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see orders from the Lord. The Ten Commandments are given in Exodus 20:
- I am the Lord thy God! Thou shalt have no other Gods but me!
- Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain!
- Thou shalt keep the Sabbath Day holy!
- Thou shalt honor father and mother!
- Thou shalt not kill!
- Thou shalt not commit adultery!
- Thou shalt not steal!
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor!
- Do not let thyself lust after thy neighbor’s wife!
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his farm, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.
All of these commands are summarized for us in the New Testament as Love God, Love Others (see Mark 12:30-31).
When God speaks, we listen. God speaks to us through His Word, which is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). As pertinent as His Word was 2,000 years ago when it was written…it holds the same authority to us today. It’s not a history textbook or romance novel or dry ink on a page.
Why Should I Obey the Word of God?
It is important for us to understand that we live in God’s universe. He has authority over us. It is His land. Our temporary bodies are residing here but for a moment, like a vapor (James 4:14). We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. We belong to God and as such, He has the final authority in our lives.
For example, as a citizen of the United States, I must obey the laws of the land. I must pay taxes. I must stop at red lights. Littering is a crime. Jaywalking is prohibited. Likewise, with a broader perspective, I am residing in God’s universe. I am His creation and I must abide by His rules.
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.Job 12:10
But that being said, my heart affections must be stirred towards obedience. Because I am like Adam and Eve, my heart bucks at the word “rules” unless I gain a deeper understanding. Naturally, we don’t like anyone telling us what to do and when to do it. We want to do things our way. We want to call the shots.
But, if I know more about God and more about His nature…I am more likely to respond in obedience. Yesterday I was driving around town and came across a construction site unexpectedly. I was required to slow down and wait until the road crewman waved me through the oncoming traffic. I was inconvenienced at a crucial time and sat twiddling my thumbs on the roadway. However, as I got closer to the situation, I realized there was a large pothole that would have done severe damage to my car had I avoided the warning sign. I was grateful that I heeded the law.
The Bible is not merely words about God…it is the active word of God. The Word of God is God’s voice in print. And if we listen, we will hear Him speak.
I must remind myself of who God is.
No one understands you like God does. He knows your deepest thoughts and concerns (Psalm 139:2). He knows your waking and your slumber (2 Kings 19:27). He knows the things that keep you up at night, and your biggest dreams and desires. It is He who knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). And not a hair on your head goes unnoticed (Matthew 10:30). He keeps tracks of your tears (Psalm 56:8) and has not forgotten you (Psalm 105:8).
I must remind myself who I am.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10
What lies are you currently believing about who God is and who you are?