The lofty halt. The lowly enter in.
The pious scoff. The poor are born again.
The strong still work. The weak embrace his rest.
The wise stay blind. The blind see and are blessed.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abram received an incredible promise from God, one that would affect not just his own family but families for generations to come. His offspring (as yet unseen) would become a people who would one day introduce the Savior to the world. Through Abram, all people would be blessed.
And Abram trusted God. “And he went out,” as the author of Hebrews writes, “not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). We remember Abram as a man of great faith, and rightly so. Abram’s faith becomes a key component of Paul’s argument in Romans, showing righteousness to be counted to people on the basis of God’s promise rather than on the basis of human accomplishment (Romans 4). Abram sets a positive example for us in many respects. But we would do well to remember that he remains a human like us.
Just a few verses later, we see him seemingly forget the promises of God. When he and his wife entered Egypt, he feared that the Egyptians would recognize his wife’s beauty and would kill him to have her, so he devised a lie. Though God promised to bless him, to make him a great nation, and to lead him, Abram seemed to forget such promises in the face of danger. Between the promise and the fulfillment stood a period of testing, a time when fear entered the picture and challenged the faith of the servant.
Abram’s story here isn’t unique. He’d be tested again, both in the waiting between the promise of Isaac and Isaac’s birth as well as in the call to sacrifice Isaac, the child of promise, on the mountain in Moriah. And Abram isn’t alone in his experiences. The people of Israel (descendants of Abram) react in terror at the approach of the Egyptian army after being saved by God from slavery through mighty deeds which show Egypt to be powerless before the Almighty. Elijah despairs at Jezebel’s threats almost immediately after watching God prove himself as sovereign over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18-19). Throughout Scripture, God’s people see him move, hear his promises, and then tremble before temporary challenges.
We aren’t that different from them. We too have promises of God. He promises to provide for our needs as we seek first his kingdom and righteousness, leaving us no reason to worry (Matthew 6:25-34). “I am with you always,” says Jesus, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Further, we know that nothing, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). We can trust that “he who began a good work in you will bring it completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). We can count our trials as joy because God is using them for our growth, and we can ask God for wisdom in faith that he will give it (James 1:2-8). We know he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We know he forgives us (1 John 1:9).
We have all these promises and more in the Bible, truths recorded for our faith. And though some promises are for the present moment, many pertain to the future, to the enduring hold of God upon his people. This means that we don’t always see how he’ll fulfill his promises to us, and we can be tempted to forget the unseen God before seen threats. We fear for our safety when we observe the dangers around us. We worry in the face of uncertainties. We fret when we feel our weaknesses. In short, we struggle to live in faith in spite of the ways we’ve seen God move.
I don’t do this well. I doubt far more often than I trust. Trials tend to show my weakness of faith rather than my strength. But I want to get better at this. God is trustworthy, and he deserves more credit than we often give him. So I pray that we would fear and love him more than we fear and love anything else. I pray our certainty of his goodness would remain in every circumstance. And I pray that as we walk between the promise and the fulfillment, we would walk by faith and not by sight. May he be pleased by our faith in him.
Thank to Richard for his suggestions for points in today’s post.
Our words divide. They rend each other’s souls.
The Word rends our division, offers peace
To war-torn hearts that long for true release
From slavery, from talk’s eternal tolls.
Our words deceive. They prove our father well.
The Word destroys deception in his wake
And takes e’en death’s ability to take
That souls may surely hope to ‘scape from hell.
Our words decay. They cannot help but fade.
The Word will never not be, shall endure
Should sea and sky be shaken. He is sure,
Salvation for the burdened and afraid.
Lord, teach our tongues, if e’er we speak, to be
Tamed by the Truth, to ever echo thee.
The story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man in Mark 2 has long confused me.
The proem to the poem of humanity
Was set against the backdrop of captivity,
Was cast with souls encumbered by profanity,
Was opened not with pomp but with nativity.
The word, the light, the lion-lamb, the majesty
Of heaven, holiness in his humility,
Appeared in righteousness to end the amnesty
And fix final salvation from futility.
The method of his advent seemed absurdity
To those who thought they knew the king’s priority,
Yet as the virgin held mortal eternity,
The world beheld the hope of our infirmity.
And all the damned ones shuddered as the surety
Of justice came in love to face depravity,
To bear the curse of sin and give security
That God will satisfy creation’s cavity.
So hope. His coming heralds a community
Where sin will not be suffered – there immunity
From falling from his presence. Perfect unity
Of love will lead to worship of triunity.
How do you feel when you see others receiving blessings you feel have been denied you? What do you do when your faithfulness to the Lord is met not with granted requests but with frustrated plans and deferred hopes? Do you patiently wait upon the Lord and trust his love for you, or do you grow bitter? Do you rejoice with those who are rejoicing, or do you resent those who possess what you desire?
If faith is an assurance, a conviction,
Then what is faith: an object or an action?
And what makes faith, according to depiction,
The only hope for holy satisfaction?
In days of old, our fathers knew your glory
And, knowing you, knew better their own measure.
Believing you would write the better story,
They walked by faith, and they received your pleasure.
Perhaps, then, faith is more than merely hoping;
Tis certainty of forthcoming salvation.
E’en in our darkest days, we are not groping
But standing, grounded in a sure foundation.
Faith knows its master, loves and fears his being.
This God, invisible, faith’s eyes are seeing.
The dissonance resounds
As all attempt to sing
A song of their own making.
Disorder now abounds
For all forget the king
(A fatal undertaking).
We sing our dirge till death
Yet sing with all our might,
Our very voices breaking.
With ev’ry selfish breath,
We shrink away from light
To try to stop the aching.
But light shines in the dark,
And dark cannot resist.
The kingdom is advancing.
There is a holy ark.
With joy, we may subsist.
Salvation comes with dancing.
Amidst the rebel choir,
A melody is heard
That rings throughout creation.
The true composer’s ire
Fell full upon the word:
The ransomed sing his song
Now knowing it involves
The rescue of the dying.
Though so much now seems wrong,
The song at last resolves: