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Sunday, January 26, 2020

posted by Site Administrator   [ updated ]

A GOOD OLD AGE, AN OLD MAN AND FULL OF YEARS

 

Genesis 25:1-34

Key Verses 25:7,8

 

Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.

 

First, A good old age, an old man and full of years (1-18). Verses 1 through 11 talks about Abraham’s later life. He took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore to him 6 sons. The statement in verse 6, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines (plural), shows that he had not just one concubine, but several concubines. But since Keturah was prosperous with many children, only she was mentioned hereHere, we are shocked and wonder why he should have concubines. Sarah died, when Abraham was 137 years old. 3 years later, when he was 140 years old, he established Isaac’s marriage. He would live 35 years more. But he didn’t know how long he would live. When he was 58 years old, Noah died at the age of 950. When he was 148 years old, Arphaxad died at the age of 438. Even after his death, Shem would live 35 years more, and then die at the age of 600. Also, after his death, Eber would live 64 years more, and then, die at the age of 464. In the eyes of ordinary people who lived about 100 years, these people who lived really long, looked mysterious and great like gods. In the ancient acupuncture bible, we see the Yellow Emperor and his teacher talk about those people who lived really long. The Yellow Emperor talks about the generations of people he had heard –the first generation of people lived really long and they did not die – they lived really long that in the eyes of people, they looked immortal like gods. After that, the next generation of people came up and lived really long, yet not as long as the first generation of people lived; after that, the next generation of people appeared and lived really long, but not as long as the second group of people lived; after that, the next generation of people appeared and lived very long, but not as long as the third generation of people lived. Abraham was living with these groups of people – Noah belonged to the first group, Shem to the second group, and Eber to the third group. So, since he was God’s covenant person, there was great possibility that he too would live really long, maybe, like Noah, or Shem, or Eber. It was very natural that after his wife’s death, several years later, he took another wife. Also, it was the custom in those days thatrich people, or mighty rulers like Abraham would take many concubines. 

 

The Midianites, the descendants of Midian, one of the sons Keturah bore to Abraham appear in Genesis 37:25-28 when Jacob’s sons sold their brother, Joseph to the Ishmaelites (vs. 25, 27); then, the Ishmaelites were described as the Midianites in verse 28, and in verse 36, showing that, since both the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Midian lived in the Gulf of Aqaba, they intermarried, thus, the Midianites were also called the Ishmaelites. Jethro – Moses’ father-in-law was the priest of Median. During the time of Gideon, the Midianites bothered Israel so much.

 

Dedanthe son of Jokshan, the son Keturah bore to Abramamwas prosperous and his sons became the Asshurites, the Letushites, and the Leummites. This description of Dedan’ssons shows that, as of the time when Genesis was written around 1430 B.C., already, Dedan’s sons were numerous, well known, occupying their lands in the Middle East. Dedan appears several times in the prophecies. Isaiah 21:13,14 An oracle concerning Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema (one of Ishmael’s sons), bring food for the fugitives. In Jeremiah 25:23, Dedan is mentioned in company with Tema and Buz as the object of God’s wrath. In Ezekiel 25:13, God’s judgment against Edom includes all the territories from Teman to DedanAlso in Ezekiel 38:10-14, Dedan is mentioned with Sheba (his brother)in a prophecy concerning Gog – the final war that will occur after the Millennium.

 

Basically, all the sons of Abraham’s descendants here became nations, playing their roles in human history. Indeed, as God promised, Abraham became a father of many nations, not only spiritually, but also physically. Abraham spent the majority of his life with God, pursuing God’s vision by focusing on one son, Isaac. Then, when God’s plan was fulfilled, God blessed him to enjoy life and prosperity freely – no conflict, no challenge, no anxiety, but smooth and wonderful life, and quickly, he became the father of many nationsBut Abraham, before his death, took care of all the matters properly so that Isaac would not be bothered. Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east. Look at verses 7 and 8. Let’s read these verses together:

 

Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.

 

Abraham died at a good old age, an old man and full of years. This is the conclusion of his life: His life was full and good; with God’s blessing and care, he enjoyed a wonderful life. This is what it means to have a blessed life. Actually, this is what all humans desire. But we see rarely anyone who enjoys this kind of blessed life. Instead, most people finish their life in sorrows, in regrets, and in loneliness, and in fear; their life is empty and meaningless. Why? It was because they chose a wrong way of life. What a terrible moment it is that at the end of their life, they find that they have lived a wrong life! Full of regret, sorrows, and fear! That’s really terrible. Life is one timetransaction; no one can say, O, it was a mistake. Let me start all over again. Life is really a precious asset. We must not waste it. We must not make a mistake. Do you want to live a truly blessed life? Do you want to be blessed like Abraham? Then, live like Abraham, holding onto God’s vision and obeying God’s commands absolutely. Don’t be bothered by what others say, even what other Christians say. As you live like Abraham and while others live like Lot, sometimes you may be confused – you suffer loss and have pains. But don’t be bothered by what others do and how they live their life. The life of losing your life for Jesus and the gospel is the only right way of life. Just be like Abraham. In the end, you will find life. Live as God’s covenant people. Then, God himself will be your shield, protecting you from all dangers. Life comes with a lot of dangers – China virus, cancers, traffic accidents, shooting rampage, natural disasters, wars, terrorism, and the danger of doctorsCNBC reported on Feb. 22nd, 2018: Johns Hopkins study claims more than 250,000 people die in the Unites States of America every year from medical errors. Other reports claim the numbers to be as high as 400,000. Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Indeed, we never know what may happen tomorrow. In this dangerous world, God is our shield when we live as his covenant people. This is the best insurance. So, live like Abraham, as God’s covenant people, and God becomes your shield, your very great reward, and you will enjoy a blessed life. Let’s pray that our life may be described in the same way, Roberto Flores died at a good old age, an old man and full of years.

 

Second, Ishmael’s family and Isaac’s family (12-21).Verses 12 through 18 is the record of the sons of Ishmael, Abraham’s concubine, Hagar bore to him. Verses 13 through 15 reads: These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, KedarAdbeelMibsamMishmaDumah, Massa, HadadTemaJeturNaphish and KedemahThese are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. Later, these people would form many nations and empires in the Middle East. Indeed, Abraham was the father of many nations. Among them, as we already mentioned about, Tema appears in the Bible in relation with DedanAlso two other sons’ names appear in the Bible several times – Nebaioth and Kedar. (Isa 21:16-17; 42:11; 60:7; Eze 27:21; Psa 120:5; Jer 2:10)

The Nabataeans (descendants of Nebaioth, the first son of Ishmael) spoke and wrote an early form of Arabic and thus they were often referred to as 'Arabs' by Greek and Roman historians.The Nabataeans and the Kedarites fought against the Assyrian Empire, so they appear in the Assyrian records as well. Previous to this, Assyrian records tell us of King Ashurbanipal (668-663 BC) who was fighting with the 'Nabaiateans of Arabia.' Then in 703 BC a group of Chaldaeans and neighboring tribes rebelled against Sennacherib, the Assyrian ruler. The ancient records of Tiglath Pilezeer III list, among the rebels, the Hagaranu(possibly the descendants of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael), the Nabatu (very possibly the descendants of Nebayoth, the eldest son of Ishmael) and the Kedarites (descendants of Ishmael's second son). According to the records, these tribes fled from Assyria into the Arabian Desert and could not be conquered.

The Assyrian kingdom eventually broke into two as two brothers began to rule, one the King of Babylonia and the other the King of Assyria. In 652 BC conflict broke out between these two brothers, and the Kedarites supported the Babylonian kingdom. Then, soon, the Kedarites faded from history and the Nabataeans came to the forefront. Later, when Judah was destroyed in 586 B.C., by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and the survivors were taken captives to Babylon, the Edomites moved into Judah – later, those Edomites that lived in Judah were called Idumeans; then, when the land of Edom was empty, the Nabateans in the Gulf of Aqaba moved into it – just about 80 miles from the gulf of Aqaba, thus occupying the land of Esau. In time, the Nabataeans built an impressive civilization based on merchant trade. Their capital was the city of Petra, located deep in the sandstone mountains of southern Jordan. (All these quotation is from the website: http://nabataea.net/nabajoth.html) Later, the Nabateans were in coalition with the Roman Empire, and under Pox Romana, they prospered, eventually, being absorbed into Rome, and losing their identity, thus disappearing from the surface of human history. Indeed, As God promised, Ishmael’s descendants were prosperous, forming many nations.

In chapter 24, we saw God establishing Isaac and Rebekah’s family. It was really amazing – how all the people that were involved in it trusted in God and entrusted their life in God’s hands, how they obeyed God’s will and submitted themselves to it. It was really blessed marriage. Then, how did it go after that? Usually, we expect that everything went well with them due to God’s blessing and that they lived happily ever after. But things did not go that way. They remained childless, because Rebekah was barren, even for 20 years! What an embarrassing moment for Isaac and Rebekah! Rebekah saw God’s guidance in her marriage matter, so with confidence, she said, I will go. She expected that everything would go well with her family. But she remained childless. She was confused; doubt about God’s will and God’s love smeared into her heart.Isaac’s half-brother, Ishmael was really fruitful – 12 sons, then, many grandchildren, forming 6 soccer teams, having Ishmael cup soccer league. Whenever she saw how fruitful Ishmael’s family was, she felt ashamed, thinking that something was wrong with her. She became very self-conscious. When she saw several servants talking and laughing, she felt condemned, thinking that they were talking about her. Her barrenness was indeed, a very serious problem for her. 

 

In this very difficult situation, Isaac supported her fully, dedicating himself to her completely, praying for her, even for 20 years! In that very challenging situation, how comforted Rebekah was, when her husband showed such complete trust and support, praying for her all the time. Because of her husband’s complete trust and support, she could deal with this very challenging situation in a proper way. Because of her husband’s complete dedication to her, she was confident about herself as the mistress in the household and told the servants what to do and what not to do. Isaac’s love and prayer for her was the source of comfort and strength to her. Indeed, Isaac was the best husband in the world. When husbands show this kind of complete support for their wives, wives are very comforted and strengthened. With their husband’s complete trust and support, these wives’ self-esteem is boosted that thebecome confident about themselves; then, such confidence is exposed in their relationship with others – how they talk and behave. So, such husbands are the best husbands in the world. Who can be so great as husbands like Isaac? Those who have faith in God and thereby, those who pray for their wives! Don’t look for a humanistic solution such as taking another concubine, but pray for your wife! I pray that all the brothers here may have absolute faith in God and pray for your wives.

 

God’s covenant family had such a great challenge, but it had such strength to deal with it because God was at the center of their marriage. Then, finally, after 20 years of Isaac’s prayer for Rebekah, God answered, and Rebekah became pregnant. Every family comes with a lot of challenges in life. But when husband and wife have faith in God and pray, such a family is strong and can withstand all kinds of challenges. 

 

When we think about these two families – Ishmael’s family and Isaac’s family, we are really shocked. It seemed that Ishmael was blessed, while Isaac was cursed. But certainly, it was not the case. Here, we learn that we should not judge anyone based on the present situation. Some people have great fruit, while others don’t. But, that’s not the sign of God’s blessing or God’s curse.We never know how things will turn out in the end. So, we don’t judge anyone. Instead, with humility and sincerity, each of us struggles to live for God alone, doing what God wants us to do with a fearful and trembling heart. Then, God will bless us greatly when his time comes.

 

Third, “Esau and Jacob” (22-34). Look at verse 22. Rebekah was pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, Why is this happening to me? So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger. The statement, the older will serve the younger, shows that God had a special plan for the younger, Jacob. When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau, which means red. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob, which means, He grasps, implying Jacob’s fighting spirit and never give up spirit. He had a wrestling match with his twin brother Esau in his mother’s womb, but he lost. Yet, he still did not give up; he was still fighting with him, grasping his heel. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. And Abraham was 160 years old. So, Esau and Jacob spent their youth with him. Maybe, Esau and Jacob visited Abraham, calling him, “Grandpa!” Maybe, Abraham told them about God and they had worship service together. Indeed, Esau and Jacob spent wonderful childhood with Abraham and Isaac. 

 

Verse 27 shows how they grew. It reads: The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.They were twins, but they were really different in every aspect. Esau was hairy, but Jacob had smooth skin, without that much hair. Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country. In those days, all boys basically should be warriors, practicing martial arts, shooting arrows, swinging swords; that’s norm. Esau was excellent in this aspect, maybe, with huge muscles, with nice beard and mustache; in our terms, he was very athletic, being popular among his peers. But Jacob was a quiet man, not talking too much, staying among the tents, cooking; he was his mom’s favorite son – momma’s boy; he was not manly unlike his twin brother. In the eyes of people, something was wrong with him; he looked weird and weak. But he should not be judged by outward appearance.

 

Verses 28 through 34 shows us how Jacob came to purchase the birthright from Esau. By the way, when did this episode of Jacob purchasing the birthright from Esau occur? One clue is verse 27. It reads: The boys grew up. They grew up – no longer little boys, but grown-ups, maybe, 30 or even 40years old. Another clue is found in 27:36. When Jacob deceived his father and took his blessing, he was 40 years old. At that time, Esau, in bitterness and anger said to Isaac, He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he is taking my blessing! So, the scar of losing his birthright was still fresh to him. So, it was not long time ago; I think, those two events happened in the same year, or maybe, 3 years apart. Or, let’s say it happened 10 years ago. Then, it meant that Jacob was 30 years old. Yet, still he had not forgotten about the birthright. The birthright is not something you can get by struggling, but it is given by fate. But even 30 years later, Jacob was still thinking about it and pursuing it, trying to figure out a way to get it. While he looked weak, not saying too much, while he looked innocent, he was thinking about all those things, trying to figure out the way to get what he wanted – for the past 30 years, that’s what he had been doing, while cooking quietlyHe was really die-hard. Once he found something valuable, he sought it all the way. By the way, what was the birthright? The birthright was given to the firstborn son in the family, and it was a token that, once his father passed away, he would inherit everything. He would be the rightful heir of all his father’s estate, while other sons would go out and pioneer their own life. Right at the moment, the birthright did not give him any benefit, but in the end, it would give him everything. Jacob knew its value and pursued it for the past 30 years, even though he had lost it by fate. Then, when a chance came, he boldly offered a deal to purchase it. Let’s say, since Isaac was rich, the birthright would bring him $10,000,000.00 maybe 30 years later. Then, in order to purchase it, how much did Jacob offer? A bowl of lentil stew, maybe, $5.00 value! Usually, ordinary people cannot think this way, but Jacob thought it would be possible. He tried, and it worked. He purchased the birthright from Esau. 

 

Esau, on the contrary, did not consider the birthright that highly. When he was hungry, he valued a bowl of lentil stew more highly than the birthright. When the deal was suggested, he said, Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me? Actually, even if he was famished, certainly he would not die because of that in the next two hours. If he did not get something from Jacob, then, surely his mom would give him something to eat – just about one hour later. He just exaggerated his condition. He made such a big deal out of nothing, and sold his birthright at a bowl of lentil stew. About this, the Bible conclusively talks about Esau, saying, So Esau despised the birthright. Hebrews 12:16,17 talks about him, saying, See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. Who are godless people? Those who despise their birthright are godless people. We must not be godless like Esau. How? By valuing our birthright in Jesus highly and securing it by any means! 

 

What can be the birthright for us? The birthright is a token for future glory. God’s calling for us is God’s vision for us; that much is what God wants us to do – that much is what God wants us to get – so God’s calling is actually God’s promise for us. Right now, it may not give you that much benefit, but in the future, in the end, it will turn out to be your glory – it will bring glory, honor and eternal inheritance when Jesus comes again. Even if you suffer because of God’s calling, certainly you will not die. So, don’t panic or exaggerate your suffering too much. Just endure it, and certainly, God will not be late to help you. We must hold onto God’s calling and secure it firmly by any means. The apostle Peter says, Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:10-11)

 

Some people hold onto God’s calling for a while, servingGod’s work. But when a desirable job offer comes, they quickly accept it. What about God’s calling, God’s will upon their life? They toss off God’s calling freely. Simply, when a big bowl of lentil stew is offered, they quickly jump into it, selling their birthright. Such people are godless. Also, some people, at a temptation of a desirable looking marriage candidate, quickly give up God’s grace, God’s calling upon their life so that they may secure that person. When better looking lentil stew is offered, they quickly choose it, tossing off God’s grace, God’s calling upon their life. Such people are godless. Don’t be godless like Esau. There is no better lentil stew. Lentil stew is lentil stew – no more or no less. Also, even if you have a big bowl of lentil stew, even Olympic pool size lentil stew, still you cannot eat it all. Later, they come to their senses and realize what they have done, but too late. Even if they plead with God for his blessing with tears, nothing will be given to them. Faith in God’s calling, that complete confidence in God’s calling, that complete confidence in God’s will and purpose for you, is not something you can get anytime you want. It is from God; faith is a gift of God; it is more precious than gold. Secure it by any means. Don’t be godless like Esau. But be like Jacob! By any means, secure the birthright, because it is really valuable – a token for your future eternal glory.

 

One Word:A Good Old Age, An Old Man And Full Of Years

Sunday, January 19, 2020

posted Jan 19, 2020, 9:26 PM by Site Administrator

ISAAC AND REBEKAH

 

Genesis 23:1-24:67     

Key Verse 24:67

 

Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

 

First, Sarah died and Abraham purchased Machpelah cave as a burial site (23:1-20). In Chapter 23, Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah passed away at the age of 127. Abraham needed to buy a burial site for her. This shows that even though he had lived in the promised land for about 62 years, he did not purchase any property there; even if it was God's promised land, he did not try to settle there; instead, he lived there in the promised land as an alien, as a traveler. When Abraham wanted to buy a burial site among the Hittites, among whom he was living, they showed great honor and respect to him. They said to him, Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead. It was not just some people's opinion, but their general consensus among themselves that none of them would refuse Abraham his tomb for burying his dead. Everyone held him so highly. When Abraham pointed out the cave of Machpelah that belonged to Ephron the Hittite, Ephron refused to sell it to him, but pleaded with him to take it for free of charge. When Abraham insisted on paying the price, Ephron suggested Abraham 400 shekels of silver, but he said to himbut, what is that between you and me? Because he held him highly as a great man of God, he never wanted to have that kind of monetary relationship with him; it was almost like blasphemy. Let's say, you gave a ride to Mother Barry to LAX, and she wants to pay you the gas money, how would you respond? No way! Lot was very successful in the city of Sodom, occupying an influential position in the city. But, despite his success, no one actually respected him. When he tried to lecture them, they were upset and said, Get out of our way. This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! It is all people's desire to be honored and respected like Abraham. Then, how can we be like Abraham, receiving respect and honor from others? The answer is simple. If you want to be like Abraham, then, live like Abraham, holding onto God's vision and living for it without any compromise. People watch you; they pay attention to how you live, more than what you say. If you live a compromising life like Lot, even worldly people will despise you. But if you live for God alone as Jesus' disciple, if you keep living that way despite challenges and difficulties, they will recognize you as a real disciple of Jesus and honor you.

 

Also, in this chapter, we see Abraham's maturity in dealing with the Hittites. Even if they held him highly as a great man of God, he did not take it for granted. Instead, he was very humble and sincere. Each time, when he was about to speak, he rose and bowed down before the people of the land. He did not utilize his spiritual authority for the monetary gain either. He insisted that he would pay the full price so that the property might be truly his. Thus, he purchased the field and the cave of Machpelah. Verses 17 and 18 emphasizes this transaction, saying, So Ephron's field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. Since then, this cave of Machpelah was used as Abraham's descendants' tomb site generation after generation. Abraham buried Sarah there; he himself was buried there; Isaac and Rebekah were buried there; Jacob and Leah were too. Then, this field and cave became like all Israel people's sacred place like the origin of their family, just like their homeland; they talked to their children about this cave, and they all came to know that their true homeland which they should eventually go back to was the Canaan, where their ancestors' tomb site was. If Abraham took it for free of charge, several hundred years later, his descendants would not be able to claim it as theirs. But because Abraham secured it by paying the full price in the presence of all the Hittites in the city gate, and this transaction was recorded clearly in the Bible, they claimed its ownership. In this way, Abraham handed it down to his next generations together with God's covenant blessing.

 

Second, Make sure that you do not take my son back there (24:1-9). Look at verse 1 in chapter 24. Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. This verse describes Abraham’s later life. He had fought the spiritual battle of putting his trust in God and obeying God’s command absolutely. He was like a powerful general who set a good example for all believers to follow. Now, after going through all these challenges and trials of life by faith in God, Abraham was enjoying a very peaceful and fulfilling life, with God’s blessing in every way. Life in God was indeed sweet and fulfilling. But Abraham had one more important mission to take care of – it was to find a wife for Isaac, his son, and establish his marriage. Sarah was gone, and he knew that any time, he too could be gone. So, before his departure, he wanted to establish Isaac's family.

 

Look at verses 2 through 4. One day, Abraham called one of his servants and had the servant swear by God that he would not get a wife for Isaac from the Canaanites, but go to Haran and get a wife for him there. It was his only son's marriage matter - it was such an important matter, but amazingly, he entrusted this matter into the hand of his servant! Usually, no father would do so. Even if they may let their reliable friends or faithful employees take care of their business, they would take care of their own sons' or daughters' marriage matter by themselves. But amazingly, Abraham put his only son's marriage matter into his servant's hands. How could he do that? He could do so because he believed that God would go ahead of him and prepare a wife for Isaac. In his eyes, eventually, it was God who would choose a girl for Isaac and establish Isaac's family. For God's covenant person, God Himself takes care of his or her marriage matter, because He wants to establish God's covenant family. Then, whether Abraham himself would go and look for a wife for Isaac or his servant would do the job, it was not so important, because eventually, it was God would do it.

 

But there was one thing his servant must remember in finding a wife for Isaac, that was, he should not take a wife for Isaac from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom he was living, but go to Abraham's relatives in Haran and look for a girl there. Abraham considered it a very serious and important matter that he had his servant swear an oath by the name of the LORD, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth. Abraham understood that Isaac’s future spiritual life would be affected by his marriage partner greatly. Isaac was the covenant son who would carry God’s covenant to the next generation. So, his wife should also be God’s covenant person so that they would be one team, one flesh, with same desire and hope. When Abraham considered this in Isaac’s marriage, then, the Canaanites women were absolutely out of option. In Canaan, there must have been many beautiful and intelligent Canaanite women. Some of them might have possessed charming personalities. But fundamentally, they had different value system, different hope and different lifestyle that none of them could be one with Isaac. None of them could be a suitable helper for Isaac to carry God’s covenant blessing. So, he told his servant to go to Haran, his own country, and get a wife for him from his relatives.

 

Who should be our marriage partner? This is a very important question. This question is the reflection of the purpose of our marriage. Why do we marry? If it is for our own pleasures, if we want to please ourselves, then, like the believers in Noah’s time, we would marry anyone we choose. If it is to solve our financial needs, then, we would choose a wealthy partner. Fundamentally, why should we marry, and what is, by the way, marriage? In Genesis chapter 2, we see God establishing marriage between Adam and Eve, and his purpose in creating marriage was so that husband and wife together, might serve God’s mission more effectively, and when established according to God’s design, they could enjoy a delightful life in the marriage relationship. But in Noah’s time, the believers left God out of their marriage, and married anyone they chose; at first, their excuse in this intermarriage, was that, once they married unbelieving people, they would help them believe in God. But it never worked that way. Instead, it worked the opposite way. They lost faith and did not function as the salt of the world at all. As a result, the whole world was corrupt, and invited God’s judgment. Marriage affects one’s entire life. Some people, because of their wrong marriage, live in pain and sorrow all the days of their life – their families are broken, and their children are scattered. To them, marriage is the source of sheer torture, argument, disappointment and regret. But some other people, because of their marriage, grow to be great men and women of God. To them, marriage is the spring fountainof happiness and delight. When Abraham was concerned about his son’s future, he could not have him marry anyone. His marriage partner should be the one whom Isaac could form a spiritual unity with so that Isaac and his wife together, might serve God’s purpose effectively. One proud young man married a foxy woman, saying that through this marriage, she would have a chance to come to heaven. But after marriage, her situation became worse, and his life and faith were ruined. There are many people who are willing to give everything to God, except marriage dream. They say, I will give everything to God, but let me marry in my own way. But if we understand the importance of marriage – it can either build us up or destroy our life, we realize that our marriage must be established in God, by God, and for God. Our marriage partner should be the one who can form a spiritual unity with us in serving God’s mission so that through our marriage, God’s purpose can advance in our life effectively.

 

Look at verses 6 through 8. Let’s read these verses together:

 

Make sure that you do not take my son back there,Abraham said. The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’ – he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.

 

Abraham said, If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there. Abraham had a clear idea about what kind of woman should be Isaac’s wife. Isaac's wife should be such a woman who could leave her family and her country to marry Isaac even though she had never met him. Wow! What a daring vision he had for his son’s wife! From Haran to Hebron, it was about 600 miles, 20 days’ journey in those days. On earth, what woman could say, Yes, and leave her country and her family and travel 600 miles to marry a man she had never met?! How could she even trust the old servant’s story that sounded too fishy? Such a woman must be very rare. But no matter what, Abraham wanted that kind of woman to be his son’s wife. If any woman was not willing to come, simply, she was not the one for Isaac. Humanly, it was impossible. But Abraham said to his servant, The LORD will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. He believed that even though it was a mission impossible, by God’s help, it would be done. Only a girl who was led and inspired by God would say, Yes, I will marry him.Abraham was looking for such a girlAbraham did not talk about any other condition such as wealth, intellect, character or outward appearance, but this one single thing - by faith in Godinspired by God, she would be willing to leave her country and her family and marry IsaacThe only preference he had for Isaac's marriage partner was this absolute faith in God that when inspired by God, she could leave everything behind including her own family, come to a foreign land and marry Isaac even without seeing him once before.

 

May our young brothers have faith in God in their marriage. May all of our young brothers be so powerful and passionate like Abraham saying, If any woman is not willing to marry by faith, then, she is not for me.

 

Third, I will go (24:10-67). Abraham's servant swore an oath by the LORD. He accepted this mission impossible by faith and left with ten camels with a lot of wedding gifts. From Hebron to Haran, it was about 20 days' journey in those days. When he arrived in Haran, it was toward evening, the time when women go out to draw water. He must have been tired after a long desert journey. Usually, in this situation, even zealous and faithful people would check in the hotel first, take hot shower, eat some good meal, sleep well, and then, from the next day, would start their mission. But, the servant was different. Even though it was the evening time, he did not say that he would start his mission tomorrow. Instead, he started his mission right away, looking for a girl to be Isaac's wife. He was really intense. And his method of starting his mission was to pray, saying, LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Let's read verse 14 together:

 

14May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, 'Drink, and I will water your camels too.' – Let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.

 

In his prayer, he revealed what kind of lady she he was looking for - the preferences he had. She would be such a thoughtful woman who was mindful of even speechless animals' thirst; and at the same time, she would be such a hard-working lady that she would be willing to water 10 camelsIn a good environment with no harsh labor or long trip, a camel drinks about5 gallons of water; when really thirsty in a challenging circumstances, a typical camel drinks about 30 gallons of water in less than 15 minutes, sometimes, even 53 gallons of water. After a long journey, 10 camels might drink really a lot of water. Even with tap water and hose, watering 10 camels would be challenging. Then, what about a girl drawing water from a deep well with a bucket, pouring it into a jar, and then, carrying it to the trough for camels to drink? It would be really not easy; it would be physically hard. But the servant prayed for such a girl to be Isaac's wife. Such a lady is totally different than a silly lady who is always concerned about how her pinky nail is broken, or how her manicure is chipped, or how her dress looks, and how her hairstyle is. The servant was looking for a very real and practical lady, so thoughtful, compassionate, and hard-working - a motherly character; indeed, he was looking for a mother of many nations.

 

During the time of Noah, God-believing peoples focused on outward beauty and thereby, married anyone they chose; as a result, the whole world was corrupt, inviting God’s judgment on themselves. Nowadays, both God-believing people and non-believing people show the same tendency in regard to their marriage partner. Or, even some people focus on the candidate’s financial condition. But Abraham valued the woman’s faith, and his servant valued the woman’s inner character and hard workingspirit. People’s view of their marriage partner reveals their spirituality very well. What is your view of marriage partner? What is the most important aspect?

Then, even before he finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. The servant asked her, Please give me a little water from your jar. Then, she said, Drink my LORD, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. After she had given him a drink, she said, I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking. So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran back to the well to draw more water. She did this continually, going from the well to the trough back and forth repeatedly until the camels finished drinking. 10 camels might drink about 100 gallons of water. It would take about 30 minutes or even 1 hour. While she was working hard to draw water, pour it on the trough, run back to the well and draw more, without saying a word, the servant watched closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful. 

 

Rebekah was thoughtful, even being willing to take care of the thirst of speechless animals. Not only so, she was a hard-working woman. Surely, she was a material for a mother of many nations. When women are like this, the society has hope and vision. Brothers are encouraged and strengthened to do something really great. In Isaiah 3:16, God describes how the women of Israel were doing during the time of the prophet Isaiah. It reads: The LORD says, The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles.Soon, the nation was destroyed by the Babylonian Empire. Modern women are like these women of Zion, mostly concerned about their outlooks. They are wholehearted to seduce handsome brothers, and have many boyfriends. Such a society cannot last. We must pray that God may establish many women of faith like Rebekah among us, from among young college students, who would take care of so many wandering and thirsty people in our society.

 

After the camels finished drinking, he took out a gold nose ring weighing 1/5 ounce, and two gold bracelets weighing 4 ounces, and gave them to her. I checked out the gold price. It’s $1,559.30 per oz as if Jan. 19, 2020The gift was worth about$6,549.00 in US dollar. It was a lot of money for the service she had offered. The servant already was convinced that the girl was the one whom God had prepared for Isaac. When he realized that the girl was Abraham’s grandniece, he bowed down and worshiped the LORD, praising Him for guiding him to the house of his master’s relatives. 

 

Then, surprised, Rebekah ran and told her mother’s household about this. The family became excited and joyfully served the guests. Quickly a feast was prepared for him. The fragrant aroma came up from the hot meal just prepared. But the servant said to them, I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say. Then tell us, Laban, Rebekah's brother said.

 

In verses 34 through 48, he testified to his master’s blessed relationship with the LORD and to the LORD’s kindness in answering his prayer that day in detail. The whole point of his long testimony was that God had chosen Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife. He said in verse 48, I praised the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. Then he immediately asked, Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn. He was very intense and forceful.

 

At this, Rebekah's father and brother - Laban and Bethuel -answered, This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.Abraham's servant bowed down to the ground before the LORD. He gave the gifts he brought to Rebekah and her family, and they joyfully ate and drank. 

Look at verse 54b. The next morning, when they got up, the servant said, Send me on my way to my master. We are really shocked at his words. Then , how much more shocked Rebekah's family were! He was really intense, pursuing his mission relentlessly. He was like a Terminator. To others, perhaps, he was a little too much, a little burdensome. But to Abraham, this man must be very reliable. Once a task was given him, he would pursue it with all his heart, focusing all his time, energy, and talent on his mission, and somehow, he would fulfill it successfully. This man was a nameless servant, but he possessed greatness because of his mission oriented life. And through him, this very important mission of finding a wife for Isaac and establishing Isaac's family was fulfilled. Since everything happened so sudden, they wanted to have at least 10 days or so to prepare her departure in order to say goodbye properly. It was very much understandable. But the servant insisted that he should go back home at once denying all human sympathySo the family decided to see what Rebekahwould say. What was her answer? Look at verse 58. Let's read this verse together:

 

So they called Rebekah and asked her, Will you go with this man? I will go, she said.

 

In those days, once she left her family, most likely, she would never see them any longer in her entire life. Also, she would have a totally different life with different people. Her whole life would change completely. But she did not hesitate; she did not cry like a little baby either. Instead, she made a clear cut decision, saying, I will go.

 

To many women, marriage dream is the most valuable asset they have. It is their lifetime dream to marry a prince charming, handsome, lovely, and gentle. So they are very careful to make a final decision; even after checking out all available conditions of their possible marriage partners for years, still, they hesitate to jump into the marriage relationship, worrying about this or that. They are simply afraid. But Rebekah decided to accept a man whom she had never met as her husband. She made this decision, because she had noticed that God had a plan for her and her marriage and she accepted God’s sovereignty upon her life that God chose her to be Isaac’s wife. She would marry Isaac not because of Isaac - his character or his appearance, or even his height, but because of God. She trusted God - God's goodness and love for her, God's good plan for her life, and thereby, entrusted her life and marriage in God's hands by marrying the one God had prepared for her. This is the meaning of marriage by faith. We marry by faith, not by sight, or not by calculation; we marry not according to our own marriage preferences, but according to God's good plan for us by faith. Through this whole event, Rebekah's family members were so amazed and inspired that they sent her out with their blessing, sayingOur sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies. Verse 61 conclusively describes the servant's mission accomplishment, saying, So the servant took Rebekah and left. The mission impossible was accomplished.

 

Verses 62 through 67 zeroes in on Isaac, showing how he responded to this matter. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, Who is that man in the field coming to meet us? He is my master, the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac apparently did not know about his father sending his servant to find a wife for him. It must have been a great surprise to Isaac. But Isaac also was a man of personal faith. He accepted Rebekah as his wife, submitting himself to his father's authority. Verse 67b says, So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. His love for Rebekah was so genuine that even after 20 years, when Rebekah remained barren and childless, Isaac refused to take another wife as was the custom of his time, even though his own father Abraham did. Instead, he prayed and prayed for his wife Rebekah for 20 years, until they, at last, were blessed with twin sons. 

 

This was how Isaac's family was established. There were several people involved in establishing this family - Abraham who initiate it, trusting that God would go ahead and prepare a wife for Isaac, and thereby, entrusted this matter in the hands of his servant; the servant who pursued this very important mission wholeheartedly and relentlessly, and secured Rebekah for Isaac; Rebekah who decided to marry Isaac even without seeing him once and leave everything behind and go to the foreign land because she trusted in God who had a good plan for her; and Isaac who submitted himself to his father's authority and married the one his father had prepared. All of them trusted in God and pursued God's will wholeheartedly. Thus, God's precious covenant family was established. And today, this is how God's covenant families are established - by absolute faith in God and by submitting ourselves, our life and marriage and our dreams to GodWe pray that we may raise up many Isaac and Rebekah from among young college students who can marry by faith in God alone. We pray that we may establish this kind of beautiful marriages continuously that are by God, and for God among us.

 

One Word: By Faith And Obedience, A Godly Family Was Established 

 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

posted Jan 12, 2020, 8:09 PM by Site Administrator

BECAUSE YOU HAVE OBEYED ME

 

Genesis 22:1-24

Key Verse 22:18

 

And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.

 

First, "Sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering" (1-8). Look at verse 1. “Some time later God tested Abraham.” We don’t know exactly when God tested Abraham. But we find one clue in verse 6: Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac. In order to sacrifice an animal such as sheep or ram as a burnt offering, you need a lot of wood, and Isaac was strong enough to carry that much wood. So he must have been in his late teens or early twenties. Isaac was God’s blessing for Abraham, and for about 20 years, Abraham enjoyed his life together with Isaac. He tasted what it meant to be blessed by God. Then, a time of testing came. One day, God called Abraham, saying, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” Abraham replied. God told him, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah on one of the mountains I will tell you. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” When we come to this passage, we are only shocked and many questions bother us such as, “Oh my goodness! Offer Isaac as a burnt offering? Why?” If we are surprised like this, then, how much more Abraham must have been shocked, surprised, and confused. Many people doubt God’s love when seemingly terrible or unpleasant things happen in their lives. They easily blame God for their misfortune. Then, how would they respond when they are asked to sacrifice their son Isaac, whom they love as a burnt offering to God? Some people, when they are asked to give up something they hold dear for the sake of obeying God's will upon their life, they say, "Uhh, that's not what I wanted when I believed in God." Or, they say, "Is that the only way I should live by?" and they simply move to another church. When this kind of real test comes to them, they all fail to obey God, thus, exposing their true motive in coming to God - not for God, but for some benefits.

 

Abraham must have been dumbfounded; he was quite at a loss without knowing what to say. He never expected that God would ask him for Isaac, because Isaac had come from God. Then, why did God do so? Verse 1 says that God ‘tested Abraham.” It meant that God wanted to see what kind of score Abraham would get if He asked him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. God wanted to see how Abraham would respond at this command. God knew that Abraham loved Him. He knew that if He asked him to offer 10 bulls as the burnt offering, Abraham would obey him absolutely. He knew that if He asked Abraham to offer all his money, Abraham would do it. But how would he respond if he were asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son, as a burnt offering? God even emphasized "your son, your only son… whom you love," showing that He fully understood how difficult it would be for Abraham to obey this command. But still knowing everything, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering to Him. 

 

God knows that we love Him, but He wants to see how much we love him. How much do I love God? This is a good question. The first man Adam loved God, but when he had to make his choice between God and his wife, he chose his wife because he loved his wife more than God. Maybe, he would do many things for God, but as long as his wife was concerned, he would make excuses to God. That much was his love for God, and because of that God was very sad. Eventually, Adam teamed up with his wife and rebelled against God, who had established his family and who had given him his wifeOn the other hand, we see Jesus loved God. How much did he love God? God commanded him to die on the cross as a ransom sacrifice for many. It is really difficult for anyone to obey this kind of direction. But, embracing all pains, sorrows and difficulties, Jesus obeyed God’s command. That much was Jesus’ love for God his Father. His love for God was complete that Jesus would do anything God asked him to do, and nothing could stop him from loving God wholeheartedly. Jesus was indeed free to obeyGod’s command because he loved God. During the time of Isaiah the prophet, the Israel people said, “I love God.” But the Lord said: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isa 29:13) Many people easily say, “I love God.” But loving God is not as easy as they think. By the way, how can we love God, when God is invisible and when God is in heaven? People think of it saying words, “I love God.” But loving God is not the matter of saying some words, but the matter of obeying God’s command. Jesus says in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” If we love God, then, we surely obey God’s command despite sufferings, pains and sorrow. But those who do not love God do not obey God’s command because of the sufferings, pains and sorrows that are involved. Some people say that they love God, but they are even not willing to offer Sunday to God, even just a few hours on Sunday, so they do not come to worship service. They are not willing to sacrifice their trip plans even for the sake of worshiping God, instead, they sacrifice Sunday worship service for their trip plans. Some people say that they love God, but they never bring offerings to God – it is obvious that they love money more than God. God says, “I am a jealous God.” When we love something else, such as pleasures, money, our own life, Ishmael, or even Isaac, God is jealous because he really loves us and he wants us to love him back with the same kind of love. He wants us to love him alone. So he asks us to offer Isaac, our best treasure, to him as a burnt offering. What is your response to this test? What is your Isaac that you value the most?

 

What was Abraham’s response? Look at verse 3. Let's read this verse together:

 

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 

 

The phrase, "Early the next morning" shows that he didn't hesitate or calculate. Instead, he was decisive. In this heart, Isaac was already offered to God as a burnt offering. Then he didn't tell anyone, not even Sarah. If he told Sarah, he would be able to come out of this dilemma very conveniently, saying, “Lord, I want to obey your command, but it seems that Sarah will kill me first. I am sorry.” But even if there was a legitimate way for him to come out of this dilemma, he didn't do that; he didn't talk to his wife about it. Instead, early the next morning, he left his home with his son and two other servants. Instead of looking for a way to come out of this dilemma with a valid excuse, he chose to obey God's command; this shows that he wanted to obey God's command; he wanted to do what God asked him to do, even if it would hurt him and cost him a lot. That was his heart's desire for God.

 

In addition, Abraham overcame his personal feelings and emotions. What God told him to do seemed crazy and insane.But throughout the journey to the very altar of sacrifice, his faith in God and simple obedience to God's command did not waver. Also, he overcame his logical and rational way of thinking. Logically, it did not make a sense to offer Isaac, because God had promised that through Isaac, his offspring would be reckoned. So it was contradictory to God’s word of promise. Furthermore, offering a human sacrifice is not biblical at all. So if he relied on his own logical thinking, reasoning, or understanding, surely he would not be able to obey God’s command. He had hundreds of understandable reasons to disobey this command. But “Nevertheless” he obeyed. Nevertheless, he obeyed God’s command overcoming all obstacles – the obstacle of his own logical way of thinking, the obstacle of his past knowledge about God, and the obstacle ofhis feelings. His faith was the faith of “nevertheless”. People’s disobedience is the disobedience of “because. Abraham’s obedience was the obedience of “nevertheless”. The situation is the same, but their responses are totally the opposite. So it is really the matter of whether they love God or not. Certainly, Abraham did not live by his feelings, not by his logic or reason, but by faith in God only. “Nevertheless” he obeyed.

 

After preparing enough wood for the burnt offering, he left together with Isaac and also two of his servants. It took a total of three days for Abraham to arrive at the place God spoke of. These three days must have been the longest three days inAbraham’s entire life, and a great spiritual battle was going on in his heart – all kinds of mixed emotions and voices of fear and faith, sorrow and confidence were going on in his heartMany people make a big decision to obey God and commit themselves to God. But then, when they have difficulties and pains as they struggle to keep their decision, they quickly back out, saying, "I want to, but my mother is angry at me." Or they say, "I tried, butit's too hard." Their hearts are not steadfast, because, fundamentally, they have no heart's real decision to love God and pursue Him; so they never come to experience God in their life. But Abraham, despite such pains and sorrows and confusion, did not back out. For three days, he fought the battle and kept moving forward step by step – his three days’ journey itself was the expression of his love and obedience to God. Abraham was like a mighty warrior for God who, despite such great pains and difficulties, struggled hard to do what God wanted him to do. Indeed, Abraham was seeking God with all his heart and soul. Then, on the way, Isaac spoke up and said to him, “Father? The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” What a painful and heart-wrenching question it was! It was like a hammer knocking Abraham hard.To many others, this is the knock-out punch. At this, Abraham could have broken down, saying, “I cannot do it,” and cried uncontrollably. Yet, how did Abraham respond? Look at verse 8. Let's read this verse together:

 

Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

 

Abraham was not emotional. Instead, he said to Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” His statement here reveals to us his mindset - Abraham's mentality or logic, actually, Abraham's faith. Once Isaac was sacrificed to God as a burnt offering, how would God's promises given to him come true? Abraham's belief was that God Himself would provide a way to fulfill His vision. How? Abraham's response was: I don't know, but He must have a way. "God Himself will provide." God Himself will take care of that matter. He believed beyond his imagination and logic that God had a way to fulfill it even if Isaac was killed. So, he did not hold onto Isaac; he did not insist, saying that, in order to fulfill God's great vision upon his life, he must secure Isaac no matter what. Instead, he trusted in God who would do more than he could imagine, and fulfill His own promises. Thereby, Abraham entrusted this matter, the matter of fulfilling God's great vision given to him, into God's hands by faith in God. And by faith, he simply obeyed God's command instead of holding onto God's vision. In this way, he surrendered his own future, God's vision, and even his son Isaac into God's handsIndeed, with this simple trust in God, he had been fighting such a fierce battle for the past three days.

 

To God's people, Isaac is very important because to them, Isaac is the very embodiment of God's vision given to them - the most precious treasure they have. But the problem is that, often, they hold onto Isaac and even in the name of pursuing it and fulfilling it, they disobey God's command, or reject God's servant's authority above them. So, when the real test comes to them when they have to choose that either they would hold onto Isaac or they would submit themselves to God's authority, they fail and are found as just ambitious and even rebellious people who do not surrender themselves to God, but pursue their own ambition all the way. As servants of God, we must learn Abraham's belief - "God Himself will provide." How? I don’t know, but we just do our portion – what we are asked to do.When we really believe this, we can surrender our life, our future, and even God's great vision upon our life, to God by obeying God's command absolutely.

 

Second, "Because you have obeyed me" (9-19)Look at verses 9 and 10. When they had reached the place of sacrifice, Abraham built the altar there, bound Isaac, and gently laid him on the altar of sacrifice. Taking out the knife he had prepared, he was about to slay the sacrifice. Sweat was now dripping profusely from his body. He lifted the blade high in the air, every muscle in his body trembling. He closed his eyes and got ready to slay his son. Then just as the knife was about to come down, a voice from heaven called out, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” God saw Abraham’s heart’s desire to obey God no matter what, and to obey Him at any cost. God could see that in Abraham’s heart, Isaac had already been offered as a burnt offering to the LORD. God recognized Abraham’s deep trust and love for Him. It was obvious that since Abraham could obey this command, then, he would do anything for God in any situation. Surely, no one could stop him from loving God wholeheartedly. God felt honored by Abraham because Abraham said, “Yes!” even when commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. So he intervened and stopped him from slaying his son Isaac. God commended Abraham’s love and faith in Him saying, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” God was so pleased and His heart was moved that Abraham loved Him this much. One time, Jesus asked his top disciple Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Then, Simon Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Through his command to Abraham, God was asking Abraham the same question, “Do you truly love me more than these, even more than your son, Isaac?” Then, through his act of obedience, Abraham proved that he loved God the most. 

 

From Abraham’s example of obedience, we can see what it means to love and fear God. It is to love Him over everything, even our very best treasure. By offering our most treasured thing to God, we show that there is nothing that can come between God and us. No thing or person, whether good or bad, can stop us from loving and obeying God wholeheartedly. It is because people withhold from God Isaac, their best treasure, that they eventually fail to obey God. Those who love Isaac more than God cannot obey God. Jesus says, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:37) The greatest command is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Those who are willing to offer their Isaac, their best treasure to God as a burnt offering can keep this command, and they are the ones who love God more than anything in the world. They are the ones who fear God. How can we sum up Christian life? It is to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. God’s command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering is not only applicable for Abraham who lived 3,500 years ago, but also for all believers even today.

 

Look at verses 13 and 14. Let's read these verses together:

 

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” 

 

There was a ram in a thicket, caught by its horns. Was the ram there all the whole time, quietly watching what Abraham was doing? Or, did God quickly make the ram for Abraham? We don't know. But, one thing is clear: When Abraham's obedience was complete, God provided everything for him and everything turned out wonderful - Abraham sacrificed the ram as a burnt offering to God instead of his son. Abraham fought a reallyfierce battle, even willing to sacrifice his son to the Lord as a burnt offering. Then, that place where he experienced God's provision personally, and got his son back, was so special to him that he gave a new name to it  Jehovah-Jireh, which means, "The LORD will provide." And because of Abraham's experience and understanding, this truth of Jehovah-Jireh came into the world, and to this day, it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD, it will be provided." Now this truth has been revealed to us. Do you want to experience God? Do you want to experience God's provision and be victorious? Then, climb up the mountain of the LORD. Where is the mountain of the LORD? The mountain of the LORD is the place where your obedience to God is complete! The mountain of the LORD is not a small hill; it is not a place where people can approach so casually, like mountain trail, chewing gum and joking around. No. It is the high and steep mountain, which you must climb up with all your heart and strength. That's how you can obey God's command; that's how you can serve God. When your obedience is complete, there you experience this truth: Jehovah-Jireh - the LORD will provide. Once you experience it, your eyes are opened to God and you can see all things differently. Once you experience God this way, your whole view, understanding, value-system and everything, your whole life changes. We thank God for Abraham who reveals this truth to us even through his obedience of sacrificing his son to God. Now, let's enjoy this truth, by climbing up the mountain of the Lord. On the mountain of obedience, it will be provided.

 

Look at verses 15 through 18. Let us read these verse responsively, 

 

15The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16and said, “I swear by myself declares the LORD that because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

 

Here God swore by himself, making an unchangeable oath to bless him and his descendants after him. In these verses God confirms three blessings -He would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; they would take possession of the cities of their enemies; and through his offspring all nations on earth would be blessed. These three blessings were the very content of the initial covenant between God and Abraham.  

 

A covenant is a contract involving two parties. Both parties should do their parts according to the terms and conditions of the covenant, then, the covenant will be fulfilled. In Genesis 18:18,19, God shared His original plan of fulfilling this covenantThere God said, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” According to the terms and conditions of this covenant, Abraham should direct his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, and his descendants should do the same thing, teaching their children to keep the way of the LORD and doing what is right and just. This was how Abraham’s descendants were to grow into a nation of God-fearing and God-obeying people, doing what is right and just. Then through this nation, God would bless all peoples on earth. So, for this covenant to be fulfilled, Abraham's descendants should do their portion, becoming really good, and doing what is right and just. The covenant was dependant on their performance. But nowGod swore that He would surely keep these promises; He would surely make Abraham's descendants a great nation and bring blessing to all people on earth through them, not based on their covenant-keeping, but based on His own unchangeable oath because He swore to do these by Himself. 

 

Why did God make this unchangeable oath and bindhimself to itIt was all because he was so impressed and touched by Abraham's obedience that Abraham even obeyed this command; He felt so honored and loved. God appreciated how much Abraham had struggled to honor Him. Out of his great appreciation, God wanted to do something great for him. So, He made this unchangeable oath, even changing the terms and conditions of the covenant He had with Abraham. How happy God must have been at Abraham's obedience! Our God is the Creator of heaven and earth. All his creatures must honor Him, love Him, fear Him and obey Him absolutely. Such fear of God or absolute obedience is the basic duty of all his creatures toward Him. Yet, when any person obeys Him absolutely, God is so impressed and touched, and out of full appreciation of that person's love and obedience, God wants to pour out his blessings on him or her, and not only on him or her, but also on all peoples on earth. God does not take your love for him for granted; God does not take your obedience for granted; instead, He fully appreciates them; and He pours out his blessings on you, for you have obeyed him. This is how God deals with you, and me - what a beautiful person our God is! This is how we can please God; this is how we must live our life as children of God.

 

History proves that the Israel people failed – they rebelled against God, worshiped idols. They rejected God’s will for them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation toward the whole world. But God still kept His promises and sent the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ through the Israel people and brought His blessing to all peoples on earth. It was all because of one man, Abraham…and because of his faith and obedience. Through his obedience to God, Abraham secured God's blessing for the whole world; through his obedience to God, he became a blessing, a source of blessing for all peoples on earth. Thus, what God had originally planned for Abraham was fulfilled.

 

Through one man’s disobedience, the first man Adam, who loved his wife more than God, sin came into the world, and all mankind were cursed. But through one man, Abraham and hisobedience, God’s blessing came into the world. Through one man, Jesus and his obedience even to the point of his death on the cross, God’s salvation came to many lost sinners including ourselves. Now, then, our obedience to God’s command means also God’s blessing and salvation to many people.

 

Today’s passage is the conclusion of Abraham’s life of faith in the Bible. When God saw that Abraham was willing to offer even Isaac as a burnt offering, he could see very clearly that Abraham would obey Him no matter what. So, he did not need to test Abraham any more. Abraham got A+, and it was the end of God’s training. Abraham had two treasures - his firstborn son Ishmael and his second son Isaac. God asked him to send off Ishmael into the desert and sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering to Him. Our God is indeed a jealous God who does not want anything or anyone to be between Him and his people. God wants us to love him alone, giving our hearts to Him alone and completely. If your love for God, if your obedience to God is hindered by anyone or anything, God simply tells you to get rid of that from your heart and life. 

 

Who is the God of Abraham? He is the God who called a hopeless and ordinary person, Abram and changed him into a source of blessing for all peoples on earth. He did this marvelous transforming work on Abraham with his long patience andfaithfulness. As God did to Abraham, He is doing the same thing with each of us and only when we remain teachable to him, He will complete what He began, and we will be found as a source of blessing for many.

 

One Word:Because You Have Obeyed Me

Sunday, January 5, 2020

posted Jan 5, 2020, 3:58 PM by Site Administrator

ABRAHAM SENT OFF ISHMAEL

 

Genesis 20:1-21:34

Key Verse 21:14

 

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. 

 

First, He will pray for you and you will live (20:1-18).Genesis chapter 20, verse 1 reads, Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar. Gerar ismodern day Gaza Strip in Israel where the Jewish settlers and the Palestinians have fought so far. Its original people were the PhilistinesAs Abraham moved into this area, he was afraid that the Philistines would kill him to take his wife. So he told Sarah to say that he was her brother. In the previous passage, we saw Abraham’s maturity – his hospitality toward the three guests, and his sincere prayer struggle for the people of Sodom testified that he was a great man; he grew to be God’s friend. But now in this chapter, we see him telling a lie, for he was afraid of the people in Gerar. Even though he had grown up as a great man of God, he still had a unique weakness, that was, the fear of people.When we see great servants of God like Abraham, we think that they are perfect. But, usually, they are not perfect. They too have their own unique weaknesses, and God bears with them. Because of his lie, Sarah was in big trouble - Abimelech, king of Gerar took her as his wife. How did God deal with his problem?

 

God did not say anything to Abraham about it. Instead, God dealt with Abimelech. God appeared to him in a dream, and said, You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman. Usually, God does not threaten anyone like this, saying, You are as good as dead! But this time, for the sake of Abraham and Sarah, God took this action - You are as good as dead. For the sake of protecting his friend Abraham, God was willing to go this far, changing his cool style. God gave Abimelech a direction to return Sarah to Abraham with a warning that, otherwise, he and all his men would surely die. Also, God said to him, He is a prophet. He will pray for you and you will live. Abraham being a prophet showed that he was not an ordinary human, but a divine being, deserving honor and respect. Also, Abimelech was king, but God showed him that actually his life was at the mercy of Abraham - only if Abraham prayed for him, he would be healed and live. In this way, God exalted Abraham highly so that Abimelech might show him proper respect and honor. Focusing on his fruitless life, Abraham might think that he had done nothing great for God; he might that he was nobody. But this passage shows that God deeply appreciated what Abraham had done for him, how he had struggled to keep God’s covenant in his heart. In God’s eyes, Abraham was really great. God wanted Abraham to be honored and respected, and even feared by others. This is how God sees and deals with those who love him and pursue Him. God says in the Bible, Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” (1Sa 2:30) God is the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Yet, He says that there are the people whom He honors! What kind of people are they? They are those who honor Him by living for Him, pursuing God's vision wholeheartedly. When some peoplelive for God and pursue him, they are no longer ordinary humans, but the ones whom God honors and He is very concerned about their names; He wants them to be exalted highly so that they may receive honor and respect, and that they may be loved and even feared. God honors those who honor Him. 

 

When Abimelech woke up, he was very alarmed; he called in his officials and told them about it, and they were very alarmed too. So, after discussing how they should deal with this matter, they came to Abraham with their gifts of sheep and cattle, male and female servants and returned Sarah to him. Abimelech also gave Abraham a thousand shekels of silver as compensation for Sarah. In this way, the Philistines treated Abraham very respectfully, and let Abraham live wherever he liked in their territory.

 

Living as a man of God in a foreign land was not easy for Abraham, especially, in such a violent and lawless land. But God was his good shepherd who watched over him. And God patiently bore with Abraham’s weakness.

  

Second, God has brought me laughter (21:1-7). Look at chapter 21, verses 1 through 4. Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham named him Isaac, and on the eighth day of his birth, circumcised him as God commanded him. God's promise for a son had come trueIt was a long waited son - 25 years. How happy they were! It was a glorious and victorious moment for this couple. The passage zeroes in on how each of them responded to this great blessing of God. How did Abraham the husband respond? The passage focuses on how Abraham, in the time of blessing, obeyed God's instruction: He named his son Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day according to God's instruction. He was not carried away by the joy of victory; he was not carried away by his own desires either; instead, in the time of blessing, as the head of the family, he kept God at the center of his family, doing everything God commanded him to do. Often, people conveniently forget about God when things go well with their life. When your dreams come true in the matter of marriage, having babies, and getting a dream career job, don't get carried away by such things. Instead, in the time of blessing, remember God who gave you such great blessing, and keepGod's command. Especially, all husbands, be men before God as the head of the family by obeying God's will.

 

How did Sarah respond to this blessing? Before mentioning about her response, the passage testifies that it was very personal grace given to Sarah, saying, The LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. For Sarah, it was indeed more than just having a victory in her life, but very personal grace of God she experienced, which she would never forget; she would be eternally thankful to God for this grace. Once Sarah expressed her fatalism and despair, saying to her husband, The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. Who could understand her agony that she, all on her own, put her maidservant in the arm of her husband? She waited and waited for God to give her a son. But when she passed menopause, she finally gave up all hope for a son that even when God told her that she would have a son, she laughed with silly smile; she didn’t believe. But now she really laughed, saying, God has brought me laughter. She had been humiliated for the past 60 years; even her maidservant despised her. Who could understand her agony, her sorrow, fatalism and despair? Who could make her laugh? No one! But God brought her laughter, and made her smile brightly. She became a happy woman because of God. For her, Isaac her son, was God's seal of approval, like the sign of God's personal love for her, which all people could see very clearly, and no one could deny - she was not a cursed woman, but a blessed woman, loved by God so personally. So, in all things from that time on, she was confident in her words and actions - nothing to be ashamed of, because the sign of God's personal love for her, that was, Isaac, was there. She summed up her entire life testimony in two sentences and shared itsaying, Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age. In her words, there was confidence and charisma. In this way, she became a victor because of God's power and grace.

 

Having laughter, this is the expression of true victory in life. Many people struggle to grab what they wantthey pursue what they desire, and when they get it, it seems that they laugh. They find a seemingly promising job at a young age; they marry so early in their age. But usually, the laughter they have produced is not real laughter. Soon their laughter turns to quarreling, strife, and disappointment. At the challenges of life, their laughter disappears so quickly, and even turns into anger, depression and nightmares. How can we really laugh? How can we become real victors in our life, in this world? Sarah says, God has brought me laughter! When God brings you laughter, you are a real victor in life. Isaac was more than a son to Sarah; Isaac was the fruit of Abraham and Sarah’s 25 years of life of holding onto God’s promise – sometimes, they were about to be blown away; but somehow, they overcame all difficulties inwardly and outwardly; they held on it firmly as if it were their lifeline - they fought the spiritual battle of believing in God’s promise, and after 25 years of struggle, they finally ended up seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise; they won the complete victory. The victory was indeed sweet, and they really laughed.This is what Christian life is about. This is how we can be true victors in life, laughing loudly. Those who hold onto God’s word of promise and live by it look stubborn, and they look likelosers; sometimes, they go through painful moments of self-denial, weeping and mourning; but when God’s word is fulfilled, they are the ones who truly laugh. Jesus mentioned about this - how he wants his believers live their life, saying, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. He also saysRemain in me, and I will remain in you...If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit...Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.(Jn 15:1-10) Holding onto God's word and living by it is what real Christian life is about. This is the narrow path, and narrow gate, and among so many God-believing people, only few find it. Hold onto God's word; remain in Jesus, and God will bring you laughter.

 

Third, “Because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned” (21:8-21). Look at verses 8 through 11. On the day that Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a great feast. Probably all of his friends and townspeople were invited and Sarah prepared enough mouthwatering dishes for everyone at this feast - homemade lasagna, Korean Bar-Be-Que, and even fresh baked pumpkin pie for dessert. The feast held in honor of little Isaac was such an important and joyous event that everyone rejoiced together with Isaac and his family. But there was one person who wasn’t so happy. It was Isaac’s older half-brother Ishmael. So far, he was the only son who was to inherit everything of Abraham and Sarah. But when Isaac was born, suddenly, he became an illegitimate child, the son of slavewomanHe lost everything. By this time, he was about seventeen years old. He knew what was going on. He was jealous of Isaac, so even at such an early age, he began harassing IsaacSarah saw this and was angry. She said to AbrahamGet rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac. Her reason was totally personal - she really disliked the idea of Ishmael sharing the inheritance with Isaac; she would never let it happen. So, she asked Abraham to kick them out. At this, Abraham was greatly distressed because it concerned his son. To Sarah, Ishmael was that slave woman's son. But to Abraham, Ishmael was his firstborn son whom he had gotten in his old age. Just until a few year ago, he had been so happy and satisfied with him that he even thought that it was okay to live and die as the father of this one son; he thought that his life was even worthwhile because of him. But now he was asked to kick him out of his house! Abraham was distressed greatly. Look at verse 12. Let's read this verse together: 

 

But God said to him, Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.

 

Abraham wanted his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael to live together in his home – how beautiful it would be if all his family members – Sarah, Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael - lived together in peace and unity; he was rich and there were many rooms in his house. But Sarah did not think that way-Ishmael should not stay with Isaac. Amazingly, God saw it in the same way. Even in God’s eyes, Ishmael should be sent off from Abraham’s home. God’s reason was, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. It meant that even though Ishmael was Abraham’s biological offspring, God would not consider him as Abraham’s offspring, because Ishmael was not from God, but from human thinking and compromise. Thereby, in the family of God’s covenant, there was no room for Ishmael to stay, and eventually, he should be sent off. Abraham’s desire was to take care of both of them very well, but God’s will was that Abraham would take care of Isaac only whom God sent, andsend off Ishmael, entrusting him in God’s hands, even though his heart was attached to him.

 

When we have both Isaac and Ishmael, we want to keep both of them, because both of them are important and lovely to us. But God wants us to take care of only Isaac who is from God and to send Ishmael offThen, God will take care of our Ishmael. As we serve God’s purpose, God sends many sheep to us – they are from God, and God’s will is that we should take care of them, because they will be reckoned as our offspring; they will be our real fruit according to God’s will and planThey will be our real family members - our sons and daughters, our brothers and sistersGod asks us to send off Ishmael by faith in him, so that we can focus on Isaac whom God sends to us.Through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned.

 

Who or what is our Ishmael? Our human dream for success in the world, our remaining compromise or love for the world. Our Ishmael can also be any human relationship such as boyfriend or girlfriend that conflicts with our new life in God. To Abraham, it was his own first born son; so, Ishmael can beeven our biological father or mother or brothers or sisters. People want intimate fellowship with God, talking to God and hearing from him directly. They want to do mighty works of God for God’s glory, even performing miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. But to many of them, it ends as a wishful thinking, because they do not send off their Ishmael. With the elements of compromise in their lives and hearts, their spiritual growth has limit. God’s direction for us, as it was for Abraham,is to send our Ishmaels away, instead of holding onto them. And he promises that if we send them off, he will take care of them, because he knows our concern for them.

 

Upon being given such a harsh command, what did Abraham do? Look at verse 14. Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. Abraham didn’t question or plead with God concerning this sensitive and very personal matter. Instead, early the very next morning, he gave Hagar and Ishmael one gallon of water and a sack of lunch, and sent them off into the desert as God had told him to. In the eyes of ordinary people, he looked very cruelOne of my students during this Bible studyexclaimed, Oh my goodness, he is a cold-hearted person! No, he was not a cold-hearted person. In order to obey God’s word, he denied his feelings and emotions. Indeed, Abraham was fighting a fierce battle. How did Ishmael feel when his own father was kicking him out only because he had a new son? He was confused; he felt betrayed and was angry at him; he did not want to see his father's face at all; maybe, he hung his head low; or he was staring at him with his eyes glowing with anger; or he screamed at him, saying, I hate you. I will never see you again. When Abraham saw his firstborn son suffering so terribly this way, or getting angry at him, his heart was broken. But he did not live by his feelings and emotions; he did not live by his human nature either. Instead, he lived by God's word, denying himself and doing what God wanted him to do. Even at such great pain, he did not back out; instead, he continued his obedience to God's direction and sent them off into the desert, swallowing all related misunderstanding, sorrows and pains by himself. He was not an ordinary man; he was not a silly emotional or humanistic man at all; he was a warrior who went his way despite all challenges. We are reminded of how Jesus, despite all difficulties and pains, proceeded his way and obeyed God's command - he was a mighty warrior. God says in the Bible, My righteous will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. If God's people shrink back because of some difficulties or pains or sorrows, God will not be pleased with them. (Heb 10:38) At this, Hebrews 10:39 conclusively says, But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

 

How could Abraham do this? How could he send off his firstborn teenage son, Ishmael into the desert with just a lunch sack and a gallon of water? He could do so because of two reasons. One reason was because God had promised him that, when he sent him off, God would take care of him and bless him. Abraham believed in God's protection and care for Ishmael. So, he didn't need to give Ishmael a lot of food or many camels, but just a lunch sack and a gallon of water - God would take care of him. The other reason was because of God's blessing on Isaac. God promised him that God's covenant blessing would be given to Isaac and God's covenant people would be reckoned through Isaac. In order to secure this blessing of God's covenant on Isaac, Abraham was willing to send off his firstborn son Ishmael into the desert. This much, Abraham pursued God’s covenant blessing on Isaac. Here, we see the importance and value of God's covenant blessing. It is the most precious treasure we have. In order to secure this blessing for us, we are willing to send off anything or anyone that is in the way. We are like a farmer who found a treasure chest buried in his rented field - what does he do once he finds the treasure chest in his rented field? He goes home, sell everything he has and purchases the field. While he sells everything he has, people think of him crazy, but he knows what he is doing and he is overjoyed when he secures that field. We are like a merchant who found the pearl of the greatest value; it was for sale, and it seemed that no one really recognized its true value. So what does he do? He goes home, sells everything he has and purchases the pearl. God's covenant blessing is like that - it is a token that brings us into real intimate fellowship with God, a token that will bring us into true friendship with God; it is a token that will bring to us great inheritance in the kingdom of God. We value this blessing above all other things. We must take care of Isaac whom God sends, because through him, our offspring will be reckoned.

 

It was a turning point for Abraham that, as he sent off Ishmael, he got rid of all elements of human compromise from his life of faith. In order to live for God and pursue God's covenant blessing, he even sent off his own firstborn son into the desert - it showed his heart's complete decision that he would live for God alone and that nothing or no one would stand between God and him any longer. He crucified all human nature and passion so that he would live for God alone. Abraham fought a fierce spiritual battle and won the victory. 

 

In verses 15 through 21, we see how God took care of Ishmael. At first, they suffered for a while even to the point of giving up everything, even the hope for survival; they wept a lot. But God was always at the right time. He took care of them, helped them and made them prosperous.

 

FourthAbraham called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God (21:22-34). In verses 22 through 32, we see Abraham’s second encounter with Abimelech, the king of Gerar.Abimelech with his army commander Phicol came to Abraham and said to him, God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show kindness to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you. When Lot spoke, the people of Sodom laughed at him. They didn’t respect or revere him at all. But people recognized Abraham as God's servant and came to respect him. Now Abimelech king of Gerar wanted to make a peace treaty with Abraham, asking him for kindness to him and his descendants. At this, Abraham responded, saying, I swear.Then, he complained to Abimelech about a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had seized, which Abraham had dug. Then, at Abimelech's apology, Abraham initiated two contracts - one for the peace treaty and the other for the well he had dug. At their first meeting with Abimelech, Abraham had been shaking in fear, without being able to say anything when king Abimelech even took his wifeBut now Abraham stood as an equal to the king of Gerar, making his opinion very clear to him and initiating contracts with him. This shows that as Abraham continued to live by faith, he came to overcome his unique weakness, that was, his fear of worldly people, especially, those who had political power. That was a true victory Abraham experienced in his life of faith. 

Look at verses 33 and 34. Let’s read these verses together:

 

33Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. 34And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

 

After this event with Abimelech, king of Gerar, something amazing happened in Abraham’s heart. Usually, when something great happened, Abraham built an altar to the Lord as an expression of his thanks to God. When he was really reallythankful, then, he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. But this time, something really really reallygreat happened that he did something totally different - he planted a tamarisk tree and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. Tamarisk tree is a slow-growing evergreen tree in the Middle East. When you plant a tree, you do it not for yourself, but for your next generation. Also, it was the first time that Abraham had called God by this name, the Eternal God. Through experiencing victory in God in his practical life, he came to know God who is eternal. It meant that his eyes were opened to see who God was - the Eternal God - God lives eternally; He remains eternally. Abraham realized that all other things such as humans, property like the well and even precious sons and daughters were temporary, remaining in the world just for a while, and then, going away, losing all their value, meaning and purpose, but God would remain forever. Even he himself would stay on earth for a while and would be gone sometime later, but God would remain there forever. Only God is great and only He carries real meaning and purpose, while all other things eventually lose their meaning, purpose and valueSo far, Abraham was so concerned about his life, his son, and his desire; he built an altar to the Lord whenever God did something good for him such as encouragement or promises. But now, in view of God who is eternal, the value of the things of this world and humans faded away in his eyesThings of this world lost their grip on Abraham whatever they might be. His focus changed from the things of humans and himself, to the things of God who is the Eternal God. Abraham graduated from the things of humans and entered the world of God who is eternal. Verse 33 is indeed a glorious statement. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God.

 

This passage shows us the key characteristic of ourChristian life, that is, spiritual growth, very well. Christian life is the life of experiencing God personally, and thereby, opening our eyes to who God is more and more. When our eyes are opened to God as we experience God, we begin to see things in a different perspective than before, and there, our value system changes and our hope also changes. That’s how we grow in God continually. This knowing God personally through experiencing God is the real essence of our Christian life. Without this knowing of God personally, then, we just do Christian activities, at best being nice to others; such a Christian life has no real power, and it is boring. The question is how we can know God more and more. When we think about Abraham’s case, we see that his great understanding of God as the Eternal God had not come to him without any cause. Instead, we see that it came to him as the result of his sincere struggle to obey God’s words, even the command of sending off his firstborn son Ishmael. Sending off Ishmael was not something he did one time and forgot about; instead, it was something he thought about so much and, with this, he thought a lot about fundamental things of life such as what life is about, what is truly important, and who his God was – so many things. And also experiencing personal victory over his weakness helped him know God more. Through all these struggles and experiences, his understanding of life deepened, and finally he could see who his God was – the Eternal God. Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Let’s pray that we also may have the same kind of sincere struggle before God by holding onto Jesus’ teaching. This struggle of holding onto Jesus’ teaching, this struggle of obeying God’s commands despite challenges and pains, will lead us to knowing God more and more. As a result, we will enjoy freedom from all things in life.

 

The Lord has brought me laughter! Let’s pray that this may be our testimony too. It is through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned. Let’s accept this plan of God and send off Ishmael. Our God is the Eternal God. With this understanding of God, we can graduate from the things of humans and enter into the world of God.

 

One Word: Through Isaac Your Offspring Will Be Reckoned

 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

posted Dec 30, 2019, 12:21 PM by Site Administrator

GOD DESTROYED SODOM AND GOMORRAH

 

Genesis 19:1-38

Key Verse 19:29

 

So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

FirstNo, we will spend the night in the square (1-9).Look at verse 1 and 2. The two angels arrived in Sodom in the evening. They met Lot, who was sitting in the gateway of the city. Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city: The gateway of the city was the place where people brought their cases such as selling property, business contract or conflicts with others, and settled the matters before those who were seated there. So, those who sat in the gateway of the city were the influential people of the city - officials and lawyers and judges. This shows that Lot was firmly rooted and established as an influential person in the city of Sodom. When he saw the two men, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground and said, My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning. But the two angels did not feel comfortable with his invitation, even if he invited them in the same way Abraham had done, bowing down to the ground, and humbly asking them to come to his house. So, they said, No, we will spend the night in the square. Yet, since he insisted, they went with him. Then, at his house, Lot prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast. When he insisted, it seemed that he was going to treat them really well, but, once they went with him, he did not treat them well at all. Abraham killed a choice, tender calf for them, but Lot prepared for them a simple supper of unleavened bread, just some crackers for their dinner. There was no enthusiasm, or true sense of servitude, no warm welcome. Also, no one in his family helped him – where were his wife, and his two daughters while he was entertaining the guests? Lot was successful in Sodom; he was rich and occupied an important position; yet, it seemed that he was not enjoying an abundant life; it seemed that no one truly honored or respected him, even his own family members. 

 

Look at verses 4 and 5. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They demanded Lot to bring out his two guests so that they might have sex with them. They were really pervert - whole town. This was how they used to treat travelers that came by their town. No wonder the outcry against the people of this city reached God. Sodom was a wicked city.

 

It is really shocking that Lot who was called a righteous man in the Bible, wanted to live in the city like this. The Bible says that Lot, as he lived among them day after day, was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men. He was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard. He should not have lived there, or he should have left that area long time ago. Or, if he decided to stay there, he should have lived as a man of God trying to evangelize the city of Sodom; if preaching the message of repentance was too challenging, he might have invited some of people to one to one Bible study. But he didn't do any of them. Why? It was because he liked the city life in Sodom; he liked his success in Sodom, occupying a high position. So, while being distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men in Sodom, he pursued success, knowing how wicked they were, but not standing up as a man of God; maybe, he thought that he would never be so wicked like the people of Sodom; instead, he thought that he would just live a good life, enjoying prosperity in Sodom, and of course, attending worship service once a week. But when he did not seek God's work wholeheartedly, when he did not challenge them to repent, when he did not strive to evangelize them positively, then, things did not go as he had planned, because he had been influenced by the lifestyles and value system of the Sodomites. In the passage, Lot tried to protect his guests; it was praiseworthy. But the way he tried to solve the problem was really terrible. He offered them his two virgin daughters! It was unthinkable for any father to do. But in his eyes, it was the best choice. As he had lived there, actually, he himself was becoming a Sodomite - his way of thinking, value system, hope and direction were all being aligned with those of the Sodomites. Also, his two daughters were pledged to marry the Sodomites - in Lot's eyes, it was okay. In this way, he himself had become a Sodomite. 

 

This is how so many Christians live their life in the world. Like Lot, they never intend to be wicked like the wicked people of the world; but at the same time, they have no heart's true decision to serve God's evangelical mission either; instead, they just pursue success in the world, while going to church once a week. Yet, they do not realize that, as they do so, they are becoming like the people of the world, being influenced by their value system and lifestyle consciously and unconsciously. And they do not realize what dangers are waiting for them. Jesus mentioned about these people, saying, Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. Indeed, often we see them losing everything they hold dear - family, success, dream career, fame and money, just in the same way Lot lost everything. Even if they don’t lose them in this life, their life does not carry any value, because they have done nothing for God in this life; all these people end their life in great regret. The best way of life is not Lot's way, but Abraham's way. Jesus shows us the best way of life, saying, Whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it to eternal life. Don't try to save your dream for marriage in this life, but make a heart's decision to lose it for the sake of Jesus and his gospel, then, you will find it. The world is not the place where we should try to settle down and enjoy a comfortable life in; instead, the world is the place which we should evangelize with the gospel. Don't try to save your dream for success in the world, but for the sake of serving God's kingdom work, for the sake of obeying God's will for you, lose it, let go of it, and amazingly, you will find it eternally.

 

Look at verse 9. At Lot's offer, the Sodomites were angry at him and said, Get out of our way. This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge. We’ll treat you worse than them. While Lot struggled to establish himself as an influential person, while he won the election, it seemed that the townspeople respected him; but now they showed how they considered him – anytime, when their real agenda was concerned, they ignored him and despised him; they considered him as someone they could despise any time. Lot was respected neither by his family members nor by his townspeople.

 

If love is for women, then, respect is for men. The apostle Paul says, However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph 5:33) Men have this desire for respect. Brothers, do you want to be respected? Then, don’t be like Lot. Even if he had a high political position, even if it seemed that he was successful, no one respected him – his neighbors and even his family. But see how Abraham was respected by everyone. The Hittites respected him so highly, saying, Sir,… You are a mighty prince among us. They considered showing him favor as great privilege. God considered him as his friend. See even how Sarah his wife respected him, calling him, My master. Isn’t this all husbands’ dream? Don’t follow the footsteps of Lot. Instead, follow the footsteps of Abraham. 

 

Second, Flee for your lives! Don’t look back (10-38).Look at verses 10 and 11. The Sodomites, after despising Lot, kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the two men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. They revealed their true identity and told Lot to get all who belonged to him out of the city, because they were going to destroy the city according to God’s decisionSo, Lot went to his sons-in-law and told them about this, but they thought he was joking. Now it was the time for Lot to leave the city as soon as possible. But Lot hesitated that he did not leave until the dawn. Let's say that the angels told him to leave the city at 11 pm; then, until 4 or 5 am, he was not leaving. So, with the coming of dawn, the angels urged him, saying, Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished. Yet, he still hesitated. Even if God's judgment was announced, and he was given a chance to save himself from it, he was hesitant between two opinions - staying in the city or leaving the city. Why did he have such a great difficulty to leave the city, to choose between heaven and hell? It was because he loved his life in Sodom - simply, he didn't want to give up his life in Sodom. When he thought about leaving the city, his pleasure-seeking life in Sodom pulled him back; his big bank account dragged him down; his factory, his fancy restaurant, his beautiful house, his orchard, his high position in the city all pulled him back. Because he loved his life in Sodom, because his life had been so deeply rooted in Sodom with his career, human network, business and positions, he could not leave the city. So, even at the angel's direct message about the destruction, he was hesitant to leave the city. 

 

Many people refuse to make commitment to God, because they want to pursue their own life in the world - maybe, for marriage, maybe, for a successful career. They say that later, they would come back to God. Later when? After retirement when they have nothing else to do, and certainly, before they die. Their plan seems really fantastic. They would enjoy their life in the world freely. Then, right before death, they would repent and turn to God and go to heaven. But things will not go as they plan. When their life is rooted in the world deeply, for about 10 years, 20 years, or even 50 years, later, on their deathbed, when they try to pull up their life from the world, simply, they cannot; they are rooted in the world deeply that they cannot move any longer. Even if they know in their mind that they must repent and turn to God for their salvation, still they cannot repent; simply, their hearts are not responsive. As of that time, they have developed completely worldly value system, worldly hope and vision, and lifestyle that they cannot change anything. Even if great signs of the last days appear before their very eyes, even if God's angels appear to them and tell them that the last days have come and that they must repent, they cannot respond. 

 

College period is the very beginning of people's real life in the world. Some people enter through the narrow gate and walk on the narrow path, while others take the wide gate, and walk on the wide path. At the beginning of the journey, there is a littledifference between these two groups of people. But as they continue on their journey for 20 years, 30 years, or even 50 years, the gap between them grows wider and deeper that, at the end of their life, the gap is so huge that no one can cross over from one path to the other - a big chasm is fixed that no one can cross over. In this way, those who walk on the wide path go to destruction, while those who walk on the narrow path go to eternal life in God's kingdom. God says in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation chapter 22:11, Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy. (Rev 22:11) What a solemn statement it is! There is no sneaky way for salvation. Today, you make your heart’s clear-cut decision to be holy to God, then, you will live that kind of life continually for the rest of your life. Then, you will see Jesus’ smiling face on that day.

 

Look at verse 16. When he still hesitated, the angels could not wait any longer. They grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. Literally, they dragged them out of the city. About this, verse 16 gives us the reason why the angels even yanked them out of Sodom and saved them, saying, For the LORD was merciful to them. The apostle Peter called Lot a righteous man. But Lot's own righteousness was not enough to save himself from God's judgment. God was merciful to him and saved him from the catastrophe. After bringing them out, one of the angels said to them, Flee for your lives. Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away! Lot and his two daughters obeyed this direction, and escaped from God’s judgment successfully, but Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt. Her failure is a great warning to all those who want to escape from the coming wrath of God. As we live as the believers of Christ Jesus, we should not look back what we have left – our old sinful way of life- just looking back at it or yearning for it can destroy our spirituality. The Israel people experienced God's salvation through Exodus from Egypt. But as they lived as God's people in the desert, due to some difficulties and challenges, they yearned for their life in Egypt, saying that they missed the meat and garlic bread they ate as they had sat down by the meat pot in Egypt. All of these people who yearned for their past life could not be wholehearted to God as God's people; as a result, all of them failed to enter the promised land; instead, they all collapsed in the desert. Today, we must flee from the coming destruction. Flee for your lives. Don’t look back! Don’t stop in the middle.

 

Look at verse 29. Let’s read this verse together:

 

So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

 

In chapter 18, Abraham pleaded for Sodom so earnestly; he lowered the required number of the righteous to ten; he never mentioned about Lot’s name in his prayer. But God knew why Abraham was praying so earnestly, and even though there were no ten righteous people in Sodom, God rescued Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the city where Lot had lived. By Lot’s own faith and righteousness, he could not be saved from God’s judgment. But because of Abraham’s prayer, he was saved. In Jesus, now we love our family members dearly; with pure heart, we want them to believe in Jesus. So, we pray. Sometimes, thinking about their salvation, we groan in deep pain and sorrows; we pray in tears for them. Our God remembers our prayers for them. He watches over them because of us. Pray for your beloved ones, and God will intervene into their lives because of your prayer for them. James 5:16 says, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

 

The final fruit of Lot was not good at all. When Lot saw how God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, he was afraid to live in a city. He lost appetite for it. So, he left Zoar, went to the mountain and lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father. Their understanding was that having sex was the custom all over the earth – that’s their understanding, their perspective. As they lived in Sodom, they became nothing but Sodomites. They wanted to have sex, but there was no man available around them except their father. Then, with a lame excuse of maintaining their family line, they committed incest; thus, this family produced tragic fruit of the Moabites and the Ammonites. What a tragic life Lot had! He never imagined life in Sodom would end in this way!

 

Lot wanted to secure his wealth and enjoy a city life even by going out of God's will; he really pursued them wholeheartedly. But in the end, he lost everything – he lost his material possession; he lost his city life, instead, he came to live in a cave like animals; he lost his wife; he lost God’s blessing, and he lost even his two daughters; he produced enemies of God for the generations to come. Jesus says, Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35) Lot lost everything, but Abraham gained everything - wealth, an abundant life, son, happiness, respect and honor, and he became God's friend, bringing God's blessings to all peoples on earth. Abraham and Lot, they are the two metaphors that serve all believers about how we must live our lives as believers. If Lot were an unbeliever, we easily say that the end of unbelievers’ life is so terrible like this. But when we realize that Lot was called a righteous man, we are really alarmed. The believers’ life can be as bad as that of Lot if they compromise! 

 

Modern day, Lot’s lifestyle is absolutely prevailing among Christians, and when a Christian boy lives like Lot – saying that he believes in God and pursues the things of this world, he is praised as a good kid. But if a Christian boy takes Abraham’s way of life, giving up his life in the world and living for God’s purpose alone as a disciple of Jesus, other Christians and family members persecute him and do everything to stop him. The absolute majority of believers in our society take the way of Lot, and their life is full of blame. It is no wonder that the divorce rate among God-believing people is higher than that of unbelieving people in America. They produce really bad fruit in their life like Lot’s, too shameful even to talk about. Don’t be like those Christians! Even unbelieving people refuse to believe in Jesus, because of them. Never say, “Other churches do this or that.” It’s really hard to find a good role model church or Christians. We just study the Bible and do what the Bible shows.We must walk in the footsteps of Abraham, holding onto God's covenant vision upon our life, then, we can grow according to God’s plan and we can be used as a source of blessing for many. You will be a great and powerful nation and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Live for this will of God so that God can fulfill His good and great plan for you.

 

God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah shows God’s justice. God is love; that’s his character. At the same time, as the judge of all, God must be fair; justice must prevail. God bears with the sinful behaviors of sinful people with long suffering patience. But when sin reaches its limit, God’s judgment comes. Abraham, as God’s servant, as God’s business partner, must be aware of this. As God’s servants, we must know this as well. Now we are living in the last days. Sin is prevailing in the lives of people. In this situation, we must tell them to repent so that they may not be destroyed. 

 

One Word:Flee For Your Lives! Do Not Look Back!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

posted Dec 23, 2019, 9:08 AM by Site Administrator

2

 

WHERE IS THE ONE WHO HAS BEEN BORN KING OF THE JEWS?

 

Matthew 2:1-12

Key Verse: 2:2

 

...and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

First, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (1-2). Look at verse 1. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem....” Magi, traditionally called “Wise Men, supposedly lived in ancient Persia or Babylon.The Greek historian, Herodotus, in the fifth century B.C., identified the Magi as a caste of Medes who had a priestly function in the Persian Empire. They were great intellectuals, occupying high government positionsIn the ancient times, Astrology was one of very popular subjects among the intellectuals. The Magi say in verse 2, “We saw his star in the east....” They saw “his star.” As they were studying stars at night, they found one exceptionally bright star. It was an extraordinary star which captured their eyes. They were convinced that it was “his star,” which symbolized the King of the Jews – the Promised Messiah. Modern day, peopleboth believers and unbelievers, have heard about Jesus’ second coming; in the same way, in those days people heard and knew about the Messiah’s first coming. 

 

When the Magi found the star of the King of the Jews, they were excited - a new discovery is always a big thing for the scientists. But they were not just content with finding that the prophecy of the king of the Jews was fulfilled. Instead, they wanted to see him face to face, touch his tiny foot, and worship Him. So, what did they do? They cancelled all their schedules - government affairs, family gatherings, trip plans and all other business schedules; they asked for a long vacation and started their journey. Their investment was really great - time, money, their efforts. They came from a faraway country in the east, following the two great rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates, tracing the area known as “the fertile Crescent” from one end in the Persian Gulf area to the other end in Judea, about 1,200 miles one way. By airplane today, it may take about a few hours, but in those days, it must have taken about one month or two months one way through the wilderness. It was not an easy journey. They had to overcome the terrible weather in the Middle East; probably, they climbed up and down the mountains, crossed the rivers, and the deserts. They really valued seeing the new born Messiah so highly. 

 

The Magi followed the star; so during day time, they rested, and when evening came, and the star appeared, they set off, and continued the journey. In the eyes of people, they looked strange; their lifestyle was different. They were holy pilgrims. Their struggle showed that to them, seeing the Messiah was really important, and they sought him wholeheartedly. Their example convicts us of how much we seek Jesus. Jesus is no longer that tiny speechless baby, but our God; we can have real fellowship with him, talking to him and hearing from him; Jesus wants us to come to him and have eating fellowship with him. Christmas is the time when we renew our love for him; maybe, Christmas is the beginning of our real pursuit of Jesus Christ our Lord.  

 

Then, finally, despite intractable difficulties and harrowing hardships, spending much money and sacrificing their lifetime-careers, they came to Jerusalem. They shouted, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 

 

Here, they described the baby Jesus as “the king of the Jews.” This is Jesus’ official title. He was proclaimed as the king of the Jews at his birth by these Magi, and he was also proclaimed as the king of the Jews at his death on the cross. He was born as our King, and died as our King. This is really shocking. He is king, and we are his subjects! We live in democratic society; so we are not familiar with a monarchy system, even the terms such as king and kingdom sound a little old dated. But the Bible shows that we are in the monarchy system, and Jesus is our King and we are his people. It means that we have to see everything from a totally different view - as we believe in Jesus Christ, we are in a totally different paradigm. Toward the President of the USA, we just shake hands with him, and if we don’t like his political view, we protest and even threaten him, saying that we will not vote for him any longer. But not so with the king! Once a king is king always, and especially for Jesus, because he is eternal king. We must show him absolute loyalty, because he is our king. When he asks us to do something, we must do it whether we like it or not; if he asks us to go to a certain place, we must go there, even if that place is very dangerous, or even if we have to sacrifice a lot. Actually, Jesus expects such undying loyalty from us, saying, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer...Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10) Many peoples’ mistake is that they forget about their new status as citizens of Jesus’ kingdom; they approach the Bible with their old way of thinking, democratic view - they cut off any part they don’t understand, keeping such liberal attitude toward God. I know you are good citizens of this country – you pay taxes, you protect America, and you are very concerned about keeping the speed limits and stop signs. But let me ask you a question: Are you good citizens of Jesus’ kingdom? Let’s remember that as we believed in Jesus, paradigm has changed; we are in a monarch system. Let’s be loyal to Jesus to the end.

 

What kind of king is the king of the Jews? In 1Samuel, when the Israel people asked God to assign a king over them, they talked about what kind of king they wanted - a king to lead them and to go out before them and fight their battles. The king they wanted to have was very idealistic. If any king is like the king they wanted - going out before his people and fighting their battles, then, all his people would be really happy and blessed. But sadly, there is no king like that; all kings are selfish, self-indulgent and cruel. Instead of going out before their people, they stand behind them and push them to go out ahead of them and fight their battles; at the expense of their people, these kings enjoy luxury and prosperity; under the rule of these selfish kings, people suffer a lot. But God granted their wish and established David as an ideal king. David ruled his people as their shepherd, being concerned about their well-being; most of all, he was a righteous king who loved God and was willing to do anything for God’s purpose. He ruled his people with justice and righteousness; as a result, under his rule, his people enjoyed peace and rest; no one was left out. Even though he was not the perfect king, he showed a hint of what the perfect king would be like. Then, God promised that in the line of David, He would establish a king who would reign over his people for ever and ever - God promised that He would establish an eternal kingdom through him. This promised king in the line of David was the king of the Jews whom people really wanted to have, the king who would go out before them and fight their battles, who would do everything for their well being

 

Jesus was born as the king of the Jews and lived as the king of the Jews and died as the kingdom of the Jews. While his people were still weak and powerless due to their sins, he alone, without asking his people to do anything, fought their battles against sin, by taking up his cross, filling his body with sufferings, pains and sorrows, and eventually laid his life for them on the cross so that they would be forgiven of their sins, and set free from the bondage of sin and death. He fought their battles and brought victory to them so that they would enjoy the benefits of his fights and sacrifice. He is the king of the Jews, the ideal king we humans have been waiting for. This is your King, Jesus. We can really brag about him – we can brag about how great our king is. 

 

Now, you don’t want to reject his kingship upon your life any more, do you? If anyone rejects even this kind of perfect king, ideal king, then, it is obvious that that person is fundamentally rebellious, rejecting any authority over him or her - such a person has no place in the kingdom of God. Again, Jesus official title, even from his birth, is the king of the Jews. Believing in him, or accepting Him literally means to acknowledge his kingship over us, willing to abide by his laws and regulations, willing to live according to his commands. Jesus is the king of the Jews. Now today, do youaccept him as your king? Dont you now want to really live as his loyal people? Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of our king. 

 

Second, “Herod was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him” (3-8). These Magi, Gentile worshipers of God brought to the Jews, God’s chosen people, the good news of the birth of the king of the Jews. What great news it was! At this, the people of Jerusalem should have rejoiced, singing and dancing. Yet, how did they respond? Look at verse 3. Let’s read this verse together:

 

When king Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

 

What?!!! They were disturbed at the news of the Messiah’s coming! They were the ones who believed in the Bible; they had worship service every week! They had great pride as God’s chosen people that they would rather choose to die than denying God. It seemed that they had been waiting for the Messiah! But when he came, and when they heard about his birth, they were all disturbed! The word, “disturbed” suggests that, at the news of his birth, they were puzzled and said to each other, “Oh, no!” “What shall I do?” Why were they disturbed at this good news? They were disturbed because they knew how they had lived their life – not in a manner worthy of his coming; no one knew how they lived, but they themselves knew; no one condemned them, but they themselves knew that they were not qualified to meet their King, because the very life they had lived thus far testified against them. At his coming, all their Bible knowledge, or their faithful religious activities did not give them any confidence. What really mattered was whether they had lived their life in a manner worthy of his coming or not.   

 

There are so many people who go to church every Sunday and talk about Jesus’ second coming. But when Jesus comes again, many people will show the same response - they will be disturbed. Those who have lived their life in a manner worthy of his coming will rejoice greatly; they will rise and welcome him, singing and dancing - just like the first and second servants in the parable of the mina. But those who have not lived their life in a manner worthy of his coming will be scared and disturbed just like these people in Jerusalem. About how we must prepare ourselves for his second coming, Jesus gives us a clear instruction, saying, Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luk 21:36) We are waiting for Jesus’ second coming; we know that, once he comes, we will live in his kingdom forever - this is the very hope all Christians have and wait for. Then, in view of this hope, we must really think about how we live our life - we must live our life as Christians in a manner worthy of his second coming, living a holy life, doing what God wants us to do, instead of doing whatever we feel like doing. Then, we will not be disturbed when the signs of his second coming appear; even if the World War III occurs, we will not be shaken at all. The apostle Peter writes: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Pet 3:13-14) Jesus says in Luke 21:34, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” 

 

What was the religious leaders’ response? Herod summoned all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law to ask them where the Christ was to be born (4). They answered right at the spot, saying, “In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.” Their quotation was from Micah 5:2. Their Bible knowledge was really great. Even without looking at the Scriptures, they recited this prophecy in one breath. They memorized the Bible very well, and understood what the Bible was talking about. Now they heard that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem, five miles south to Jerusalem. What great news it was! So, did they say to Herod, “Please, excuse us,” and run to Bethlehem to see the Messiah? No! After this, they went home, took a hot shower, and slept very well, as if nothing unusual had happened. Despite their great Bible knowledge and their religious positions, they had no interest in the Messiah coming; they had no concern about the fulfillment of God’s prophecy; maybe, they were just interested in the benefits of being religious such as occupying high positions, receiving honor and respect; but they were not interested in things of God.

King Herod’s response was even worse. When Herod heard about the birth of Jesus, he was disturbed (3). He felt that his kingship was threatened. Immediately he decided to kill the baby Jesus, assuming that the baby Jesus was a threat to his throne. Later, when Herod learned that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he became furious. He gave orders to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old or under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi (16). In this way, when Herod tried to save his life, his throne, he became an enemy of God. When people love anything in the world, there is no love of God in their hearts; often, they become enemies of God.

 

Third, “They were overjoyed” (9-12). The Magi’s long pilgrimage finally ended when the star stopped over the place where the child was (9). Verse 10 says, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” The word, “overjoyed” means “extremely joyful” or “full of joy.” You know usually, aged people do not express their joy that well, but just some laughter like Santa Clause, “HoHoHo. Merry Christmas! Hohoho...” But think about these Magi, old kingly people in kingly costumes being overjoyed, being extremely joyful, shouting, “Hurray” and dancing! They look cute. What is the secret of this great delight? The secret was that they had been seeking the king of the Jews with all their hearts and strength, and had finally found him. This is the joy only those who seek Jesus wholeheartedly come to enjoy, when they find him. Many Christians feel bored about their Christian life; simply, they do not have that much joy or happiness or excitement; they just go through the motion. It seems that they have no life. Why? It is because they are not seeking Jesus, their king wholehearted - they have lost the object of their worship; they have lost their true interest in Jesus. In our life of faith, Jesus is everything; because of him, we started this Christian life; because of him, it is maintained, and he is the ultimate goal of our Christian life - He is the Alpha and the Omega of our life of faith. If we lose him, we lose everything. If we find him, we have everything. So, by any means, we must seek him with all our heart so that we can find him; we must secure him at the center of our heart by any means; we must not give our heart to anything else, or anyone else, but Jesus alone. God says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Who find him? Those who seek him with all their hearts! We can find him this way, and our joy will be complete.

 

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year when we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. But nowadays, people have changed Christmas too commercial, as a result, it is one of the most burdensome time – people suffer from headaches and depression, instead of rejoicing greatly. I pray that, during this Christmas season, instead of headaches, all of you may have great joy like the Magi had! I pray that we may shout for joy and dance like the Magi. What is the secret of having such great joy? Find Jesus by seeking him wholeheartedly, and your joy will be complete. I pray that all of you may say, “That joy is mine.”  Let’s renew our heart’s love for Jesus and seek him wholeheartedly.  

 

Look at verse 11. Let’s read this verse together: 

 

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

 

They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Wow! This is really an amazing scene. At that moment, Mary might wear just peasant’s cloth, not shining at all; for sure, there was no aura around her head. Then, what about the baby? He was just an infant new born baby, so weak and fragile. But these aged priestly people, kingly people recognized him as the King of the Jews, the Savior of the world. Even though the baby did not perform any miracles yet, they recognized him as their King, as their God and as their Savior; even though the baby did not speak a word yet, let alone delivering a powerful and heart-moving message, they recognized him as their God, bowed down and worshiped him. They were really humble people who could accept the new born baby as their King.

 

Then they presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. The visit of the Magi is recorded only in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew, the former tax collector, who pursued money, who only knew how to get, must have been greatly moved by the story of the Magi. The Magi knew how to give their most precious gifts to the most precious One. There are so many people who are wandering aimlessly with what they have – their time, their future, their money, and their talent. But these Magi did not wander. They sought God diligently with all their hearts and with all their strength. Finally, they saw God in the baby Jesus and gave him everything they had. And they were overjoyed. 

 

Their worship was very plain - they saw the baby, bowed down, worshiped him and presented their gifts to him - so their actual worship time probably took about 5 or 10 minutes. For this, they traveled such a long distance, pouring out their time and money and energy; they sacrificed so much just to see him, bow down to him and worship him. Then, what did the baby Jesus do for them? Nothing! He did not deliver a message to them; he didn’t give them his divine counseling service; he did not perform great miracles for them; instead, he just looked at them; maybe, he smiled at them. This shows that they made such efforts to see him not because they wanted to get something from him, but because who the baby Jesus was - the king of the Jews. They considered seeing him and worshiping him a great privilege that they wanted to secure it by any means, willing to pour out their time and money for it. Simply, the baby Jesus was worthy of all their time, money, and all their sacrifices. They were true worshipers of Jesus Christ. Long time ago, I had one sheep. Once he experienced Jesus’ grace, he was overjoyed. Then, in order to come to worship service every Sunday he spent 2 hours on bus from San Pedro to Long Beach; his struggle was beautiful. He used to be a raver, but to me, he was a cute prince; I loved him. Then, I took him back home after worship service. Today, we worship him, by pouring out our time, money, and talent, because Jesus is worth it.

 

At this Christmas, let’s check out our hearts and restore our love for Jesus. He did amazing things for each of us; as our King, he went ahead of us, fought our battles, even to the point of laying down his life for us so that we might not die, but live. Moreover, he visited us in our deepest despair, in our deepest sorrows, and rescued us from our sins and gave us this new life. Indeed, he is our King, and we are his people. So, it is really right for us to worship Him. It is really right for us to seek him with all our heart and strength - that’s how we can really worship him. There is a song, saying, “울며 일하라 들에서나의 어린양 먹이라. “Weep and work in the field; take care of my sheep, feeding them.” How come you weep, while you work? Because there are a lot of difficulties and pains in feeding Jesus’ sheep. Yet, you still feed Jesus’ sheep weeping. Why? Because you love Jesus. That’s how you really seek Him. There is also a song, “예수님이 좋은걸 어떡합니까예수님이 좋은걸 어떡합니까? “I like Jesus very much, what else can I do? I like Jesus very much, what else can I do?” When I came to America as a missionary in 1993, missionary John Kwon picked me up at LAX and said to me, “For the past 10 years, I have served God, forgetting the world.” That expression, “Forgetting the world,” touched my heart deeply. I could understand what kind of life he had lived and how he had served Jesus. We gave up our dreams in the world; we left our comfortable life. And now we are struggling to feed his sheep, even weeping. Why? All because of Jesus - he is the cause of our changed life, and he is the purpose of our life; he is the goal of all our struggles. He is everything to us. So, it is really reasonable for us to celebrate his birth into the world. Merry Christmas!

 

At this Christmas, let’s remember our King Jesus - what great things He has done for us. At this Christmas, let’s make our heart’s decision that we will be modern day Magi, seeking Jesus with all our heart and strength. The great joy of finding Him belongs to those who earnestly seek him. Then, we can really sing the song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

 

One Word:We Have Come To Worship The New Born King Jesus

 

 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

posted Dec 15, 2019, 7:44 PM by Site Administrator

2

 

IMMANUEL - GOD WITH US!

 

Matthew 1:1-25

Key Verse 1:23

 

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us.

 

First, the genealogy of Jesus Christ the Son of David, the Son of Abraham (1-17). Look at verse 1. A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. In the New Testament, there are two places which talk about Jesus genealogy – one in Lukes gospel, and the other is this Matthews gospel. Luke was a Greek, and he emphasized the Universal Messiahship of Jesus. So in Lukes gospel, Jesus genealogy traces back all the way to Adam, the first man. But in Matthews gospel, Jesus genealogy starts from Abraham, the beginning of Israel people, because the main audience the author Matthew targeted on was the Jews. Here, hesuggests Abraham and David as two representatives of Jesusgenealogy, proclaiming to the Jews that Jesus is their promised Messiah, whom God had mentioned to Abraham and David. God said to Abraham, Through your offspring, all peoples on earth will be blessed. Jesus brings blessings of God to all peoples on earth. God also said to David, When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2Sa 7:12-13David might think that God was talking about Solomon. But Solomons kingdom was long gone. God was actually talking about Jesus who would establish the eternal kingdom; Jesus is the king in the line of David forever. 

 

Many people make a decision to read the Bible, so they open the New Testament, and starts from the first book, the Matthews gospel, expecting something amazing and divine. But they are shocked at this long genealogy. Even before finishing this genealogy, they lose their interest and fall asleep. But this genealogy contains deep truth. In the genealogy, we find five women; usually, in the genealogy, people dont include women; the genealogy is the genealogy of men. But Jesus genealogy has five women, and three of them are non-Jewish women – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Tamar was a Canaanite woman, the daughter-in-law of Judah, but the son she bore through Judah, her father-in-law became Gods covenant person. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute in Jericho when the general Joshua was going to destroy the city of Jericho. By faith in the God of Israel, she stood on Israels side, and hid the two Israelite spies from her own people. In human eyes, she was a national traitor, but God blessed her and she became the great grandmother of king David. Ruth was a Moabite woman, the descendants of Lot through his daughter – her background was very bad. But she entrusted her life in the God of Israel and came to Israel following her-mother-in-law. God blessed her and she became the grandmother of king David. All these three women had very suspicious background, but they had one thing in common that they sought God with all their hearts and strength, going far beyond common sense. They did not deserve to be used by God because of their suspicious life background. But when they sought God wholeheartedly, God accepted them and included them into the genealogy of the Messiah, the kings line. This is how God deals with people. We are not the Jews, not the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by blood. But God still accepts and blesses us when we seek him with all our hearts and strength. 

 

In verse 6, the author mentions about Solomon and his mother Bathsheba, saying, David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriahs wife. As the result of Davids adultery, Solomon was born. Usually, in a royal family, such a son is despised and isolated. But amazingly, God loved Solomon. David had many sons, but among all of them, Godchose Solomon to succeed David as king. We may wonder, Why? How come? We dont know why, yet, thats what God did, out of his immeasurable grace.  In genealogy, people record only splendid things to show off their family legacy and skip this kind of scandalous story. But the author Matthew intentionally talks about this, and other Gentile womens cases to show that the history of Israel is also the history of Gods grace. When we think about this carefully, we too see Gods amazing grace upon us. There were many others who were smarter than us, who were more sincere than us, who were more qualified than us. Yet, God chose us as his servants and does his work through us. We have nothing to brag about, but the grace of God upon our life.

 

In verse 17, the author divides the whole genealogy into three sections – fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile, and fourteen generations from the exile to the Christ. The first fourteen generations from Abraham to David shows Gods great vision for Israel people and their rejection. God called Abraham andtold him that He would make him into a great nation and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him. In this vision, God wrestled with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and trained them. After taking the Israelites from Egypt, God told them what great vision he had for them, saying that they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the whole world. A kingdom of priests is a nation all whose people are priests. Gods plan was to establish Israel as a kingdom of priests so that they would minister over all nations on earth; God indeed had a great plan. But, the Israel people rejected this grand vision of God upon their life; instead, they just wanted to be like other kingdoms around them, so they asked God to assign a human king over them. Thats how David came up. So, the first fourteen generations can be characterized as Gods great vision for the Israel people and their rejection of it. The second fourteen generations cover the whole monarchy of Judah (from David to the exile). This period can be described as the time of the prophets when God worked hard to warn Israel people and help them repent and accept His will through the prophets; but they rejected Gods will and became more and more worthless. God could not work with them any longer, so he destroyed them and sent them to the exile; despite Gods great vision and efforts for them, they failed completely. The third fourteen generationscover the time between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and the first book of the New Testament, Matthew – this period of time is called, Intertestamental period. During this time, God did not send his prophets to them; God remained silent. Since they were not available to work with Him, since they were not willing to accept His will for them, He worked all by himself behind the scene, proceeded the redemption workand completed it by sending Jesus to the world as the Christ. 

 

When we check out these three sections of the genealogy, we can see that the redemption work is the task planned, proceeded and completed by God. When humans were available, God included them to work with Him, but when no one was available, God worked continually all by himself and then, finally completed it by sending his Son Jesus to be the Christ. Today, it is still the same. God is looking for people who are willing to accept his will; when he finds them, he shows his vision for them and works and fulfills his will through them; but when people reject his will upon their life, God still proceeds his work and fulfills it. Indeed, our God has been at his work to this very day, sometimes, working together with people when they are available and willing to work with him, and sometimes, all by himself. Indeed, the zeal of the Lord will accomplish the task.Now we are invited to work with him How do you respond to his invitation? Dont reject him. Instead, accept his great vision for you and work with him. God will fulfill his great vision in and through you, and your life will go gloriously.

 

Second, You are to give him the name Jesus (18-21).Look at verse 18. This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Lukes gospel focuses on Mary, but Matthews gospel on Joseph. They were pledged to marry. According to the Jewish marriage custom, they were legally husband and wife, but for one year after this pledge, they stayed at their parents house instead of living together. Now their hearts were dedicated to each other, earnestly waiting for their wedding day. How happy Joseph was as he was thinking about his beautiful bride Mary! As a carpenter, maybe, he was preparing some wedding furniture; maybe, he was making some cute wooden mascot as a symbol of their complete dedication to each other; maybe he was planning for their honeymoon. Even though he was working overtime, he was not tired at all at the thought of seeing the smiling face of Mary. Joyful humming came out of his mouth very naturally. He would sing of Mary, Abe Maria. Abe Maria. Maria, Maria, you make me laugh. Hahaha! Indeed, he was the happiest person in the world.

 

Then, one day, he heard what he could not believe – Mary was pregnant! Oh, no! It was unbelievable. He was betrayed. Actually, she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but how could he even imagine such a thing? Even if she tried to explain what had happened, who could believe that? A pregnant teenage girl says that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit!? No way! Joseph felt like the heaven collapsed right on him, and the earth melted right under him. He was really crushed. People do so many crazy things when such things happen to them – some people, in anger, pull out their guns, and others curse their betrayers. But how did Joseph deal with this problem? Look at verse 19. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. He could have let out his anger and sense of betrayal, but if he did so, Mary would be exposed to public disgrace, or even, she would be endangered to be killed according to the law. Instead, he chose to swallow such sorrow, pain, and anger all by himself, covering her shame. Even in such a pain, he was mindful of Mary, and for the sake of her happiness, he decided to divorce her quietly. He was really a man, so noble and mature. How could he do that? Verse 19 says that he was a righteous man, meaning that he had right relationship with God. When he was in the relationship with God, he was not controlled by his ill-emotion; he was not defeated by this challenge. Instead, when he was in the right relationship with God, he had strength to deal with this challenge. This is a secret of how we can become mature, cool and awesome. When brothers are in the right relationship with God, they become real men, so noble and awesome and mature - best husband candidates for all the sisters. When brothers are so noble like Joseph, many families can be preserved and many sisters can be comforted. Lets pray that all our brothers may seek the right relationship with God by obeying Gods command and doing what God wants them to do wholeheartedly. 

 

But things didnt go as Joseph had thought. Look at verses 20 and 21. Lets read these verses together:

 

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in his dream and said, Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

 

This was the first Christmas message delivered by an angel of God, given to Joseph. Personally, how happy Joseph was when he realized that Mary had not cheated on him! He was relieved from such pain and sorrow. Also, how happy he was when he realized that God was doing something great in his family. Moreover, the first Christmas message was really awesomeShe will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.It was the proclamation that Gods promised Messiah was going to be born in his family. The name he would give the son Mary would deliver, was Jesus, which means, The Lord saves. Why should his name be JesusIt was because he will save his people from their sins. Who is Jesus? He is the one who saves his people from their sins! Amen. 

 

If you are his people, then this is what Jesus does for you: He saves you from your sins. Then, you no longer live as slaves to sin; you no longer are controlled by sin. Once you are not controlled by sin, then, you can live a totally different life, not as slaves to sin any longer, but as free children of God. What is freedom? Freedom is your strength, your capability to obey God. Think about you being able to choose to do what God wants you to do, instead of being ruled by your fleshly desires, or materialistic desires. Think about you choosing to love God instead of being ruled by your small citizens dreams. Think about you being able to choose to do what God wants you to do, instead of being ruled by your ill-emotions or bitterness. Once you are saved from your sins, you can truly live as children of God, loving God and serving His will in all circumstances. You can truly enjoy freedom in Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus does for his people.

 

Before, we were sinners, doing what sin desired as slaves to sin. That sin-plagued life was terrible. It was painful; we wept a lot. It was the life of zombies, controlled by sinful desires, endlessly wandering; we kept doing what we didnt want to do. It was such a destructive life, bringing harm to ourselves and to others around us. How did our future look? It looked terrible too! There was no hope, no vision, but only gloom and misery. When we lived as slaves to sin, our life carried no value, no meaning, and no purpose. We were just doing terrible and mischievous things. What a miserable life it was! Then, Jesus came and saved us from our sins and gave us this new life. In this new life, we are given a chance to choose to obey God and do something great, something meaningful. What great blessing it is to be saved from our sins! Indeed, it is salvation we experience in Jesus Christ. Now as we have lived our life as children of God, loving God and serving His purpose, our life carries real value, meaning and purpose. As our life is being used for Gods kingdom work, we are satisfied and happy. What a wonderful life we enjoy! This is all by the grace of our Lord Jesus who saved us from our sins. It is really reasonable for us to honor him and celebrate his birth. Thats what Christmas is about. 

 

Jesus saves his people from their sins. Are you Jesuspeople? Then, he saves you from your sins. Then, think about how you are going to live as free children of God. Also, still, so many people live in sin; they groan and mourn; they are fighting with each other at home, at work, and on the streets; they are perishing. What they really need is not some toys, or chocolates, or computers, or even diamonds. What they really need is the real Christmas gift, that is, Jesus Christ who saves them from their sins. He can give them a new life. Lets pray that we may bring this good news of Jesus to many people around us. 

 

Third, Immanuel - God with us (22-25). Look at verses 22 and 23. Lets read these verses together: 

 

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel-- which means, God with us.

 

This is the comment of the author Matthew about the coming of the Savior Jesus. There might be several other prophecies he could have talked about in regard to Jesuscoming, but he only mentions about this: Immanuel - God with us. To him, God being with us, lowly human beings, was the most amazing thing. A virgin, named Mary, gave birth to a child - this is a universal event, so shocking and amazing. Then, people may ask, Whats the meaning of this miracle? Its meaning is, Immanuel, which means, God with us.

 

This prophecy of the virgin birth, Immanuel - God with us is from Isaiah 7. About 700 BC, when the Southern Kingdom Judah was attacked by the joint forces of the Northern Kingdom Israel and Aram, God sent his servant Isaiah to Ahaz, the king, and told him that He would help them and protect them; God even told him, Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. (Isa 7:11) - the sign of Gods confirmation that he would really help them - any sign! God really wanted to help his people, and he really wanted them to trust in Him. But the king rejected Gods offer, saying, I will not put the LORD to the test, because he had already decided to rely on some tangible help from the Assyrian Empire, rather than relying on Gods help. At this, the prophet Isaiah was upset and rebuked the king, saying, Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. By their unbelief, by rejecting God, they really tried Gods patience - they were really bad, despicable. Yet, Gods desire to be with them was bigger than their sin. Despite their rejection, God still gave them this sign, the sign of the virgin giving birth to a son - this was Gods confirmation that He was with them - Immanuel, God with us. 

 

The author, Matthew, like all other people in the world, pursued his own life as a tax collector, and he was somewhat successful, establishing his career very well with a license, position and wealth. But the problem was that no one was with him. Now with a lot of money, he was lonely, depressed and suicidal. Every night, he drank beer and watched the TV until he fell asleep. He was like a flickering wick that would die any moment. No one knew whats going, and no one wanted to be with him. But Jesus wanted to be with him and called him to follow him. When he had life together with Jesus, serving Gods work together with him, he was healed of his wounds and scars; loneliness and depression disappeared; his life carried real valueand meaning, and he was satisfied. He became a great man of God, the apostle Matthew. To Matthew, Jesus was his Immanuel God who was with him. So, with such confidence in Gods unfailing love, he could say to all peoples on earth, to all kinds of despicable sinners, Immanuel - God with us!

 

Like king Ahaz, people usually dont trust in Gods help, but on something tangible such as money, or their family, or their own strength. That way, while saying some Biblical sounding words such as, I will not put the Lord to the test,they reject God, being on their own in this life, only to be miserable, lonely and sorrowful. When they are on their own, they are nothing but the enemies toy. Demons play with them for a while and finish them. For all these skeptical people, for all these people who have tendency of mistrust, God shouts, Immanuel - God with us!

 

The virgin birth of Jesus is Gods sign for all peoples on earth - this sign stands out so greatly in the entire human history, drawing all peoples attention; everyone throughout the world, generation after generation, can read this sign. Then, what is the meaning of this sign? It is Immanuel - God with us! This virgin birth shows Gods burning desire to be with us; He wants to be in our day to day life. It means that He wants to help us, and He wants us to accept Him and have life together with Him. His desire to be with us is so great that He carried such a huge propaganda in the whole world; it was like God shouting to all peoples on earth, Immanuel - God with us! No one should say, No one understands me, because God cares for us. Today, lets accept Gods burning passion to be with us - He wants us to have life together with Him. Dont reject him any longer, but turn to Him and enjoy life together with Him. 

 

Just like the kingdom of Judah, our life comes with a lot of dangers - the danger of car-accident, the danger of gangsters and robbers, the danger of diseases, the danger of mosquitoes, the danger of bacteria, the danger of viruses, the danger of humans, the danger of animals, the danger of demons, the danger of earthquakes, the danger of wildfires, the danger of weapons and wars,... How scared we are when we catch cold! How scared we are when we have nausea, or dizziness, or headache. There is no end. Indeed, our life is like a journey through the landmine. What can be real good news for us? Money? Or Success? Or marriage? No, these things cannot be real good news, because you never know what will happen tomorrow. Your situation will change for sure. The real good news is this: Immanuel - God with us! He is our shield. He is our guide. Then, with God guiding us and protecting us, we can say, Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.Sometimes, we feel alone; sometimes, we wonder if God is still there with us. But when we look back, there is our God, Jesus, standing behind us, smiling and bidding us to go. Sometimes, lifes challenges are too heavy that we fall in despair. Then, Jesus comes and bids us to rise and walk, promising that he will give us new strength. Surely, God will guide us to the heavenly shore safe and sound, and we will see him there face to face. Immanuel - God with us!

 

  Look at verses 24 and 25. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. He realized that God was going to use his family for His special purpose - this would affect his marriage, his family and his entire life. But he willingly accepted it, offering his marriage dream, his family life and everything to God for His purpose. He was a great man. When Mary gave birth to a son, he gave him the name Jesus.

 

One Word:Immanuel - God With Us

Sunday, December 8, 2019

posted Dec 10, 2019, 6:16 AM by Site Administrator

SO THAT HE WILL DIRECT HIS CHILDREN TO KEEP THE WAY OF THE LORD

 

Genesis 18:1-33

Key Verse 18:19

 

For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.

 

First, If I have found favor in your eyes,... (1-8).Today's passage talks about how Abraham treated God and two angels who visited him in human form. Abraham did not know who they really were; to him, they were travelers who happened to pass by his tents. This event happened when Abraham was 99 years old, the same year when God appeared to him and asked him to circumcise, as we see in verse 18. Actually, this happened not long after Abraham was circumcised, maybe, 3 or 4 weeks, because we see that God mentioning about the birth of Isaac, saying by this time next year, in chapter 17, and about this time next year in chapter 18. 

 

Look at verses 1 and 2. It was just another ordinary day. Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Maybe, he was meditating on God's covenant, or it was so hot that he was dozing there. He sensed something and looked up and saw three men standing nearby. At once he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He didn't hesitate or calculate, showing that that's how he had treated the travelers passing by his tent. He was 99 years old, with that famous Middle Eastern men's gorgeous beard! Yet, he bowed low to the ground! That must have been amazing. He said, If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way-- now that you have come to your servant. He was very humble and polite. He was so considerate in his words, saying, If I have found favor in your eyes, Let a little water be brought, and Let me get something to eat, trying not to give them any burden. As he had had life together with God as God's covenant person, he became a beautiful person, very mature, thoughtful and humble.

 

The three men felt his welcoming spirit, so they answered, Very well, do as you say. So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. Quick, he said, get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread. Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree as if he were a waiter ready to serve. 

 

There are some nice rich people. They like to treat others. So, what do they do? They call servants and ask them to serve their guests, showing favor to them. But Abraham was not like them. He was there not as the one who was going to show them favor, but as the one who begged them for their favor, bowing down to the ground so that he would be given a chance to treat them. Then, once he got an approval from them, he was not like an aged man, but like a young man, running here and there; he served them with great enthusiasm; his hospitality for them was genuine. He had joy in serving them. Also, these three men were nothing but travelers, but in order to treat them, he slaughtered a choice tender calf, the best quality beef, and really a lot for three people; in those days, fine flour was expensive, but he used 20 quarts of fine flour to bake bread for them - it was really a lot of bread, maybe, enough for 300 people. Abraham was rich, but unlike many rich people, he was not stingy; instead, he was enjoying abundance both outwardly and inwardly; at that time, he indeed, enjoyed his life in God freely. Also, not only he, but also all his household served the guests wholeheartedly. At Abraham's instruction, Sarah quickly baked bread, using 20 quarts of fine flour, and his servant quickly prepared the calf; Abraham did not need to tell them what to do in detail, but just one direction, and they knew what to do and how to do it. This shows that they had been doing this kind of service to the travelers many times; they participated in this treat in one mind and heart - they were indeed God's covenant family.

 

This episode shows God's people's blessed life very well, enjoying abundance in heart, growing in maturity, becoming beautiful people. What a great blessing it is that God called us into this kind of beautiful life. We have tasted the same joy and happiness as we grow as Jesus' disciples, serving God's kingdom work. At the last Christmas worship service, we were to prepare fruits for about 300 people, but we ended up preparing for about 1000 people. Last October, we had two special guests, missionary Jose and Maria Ahn. All of us served them in one mind and heart, and we were really blessed. We thank God for granting us this wonderful life. We are growing in Jesus as mature people of God. Praise the Lord! Let's pray that as we get old, maybe, at the age of 60, 70 or 80, we may be so beautiful like Abraham, revealing God's image to the people around us. 

 

Second, Is anything too hard for the LORD? (9-15).Look at verses 9 and 10. Where is your wife Sarah? they asked him. There, in the tent, he said. Then the LORD said, I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. The LORD was so happy with Abraham and his hospitality. He could see what kind of person Abraham had become – such a great and mature person. So he exposed his identity and confirmed His blessing of a new born baby Isaac. We all want to please God, and this case shows us that when we grow as mature and beautiful people like Abraham in today's passage, we can please God. Some people, as they get old, become so stubborn that everyone avoids; some people become so proud and demanding that no one wants to come around. Let's pray that we may not grow so bad like that; instead, let's strive that we all may grow as beautiful people, very mature, thoughtful, humble and serving others. That way, we can please God revealing God's image to others around us.  

 

At this good news, how did Sarah respond? She did not say, Hurray! At the last! Instead, she laughed to herself as she thought, After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure? She was past the age of childbearing. Even if God said that she would have a son by the same time the following year, she didn't believe, because she was past menopause; simply, it was something impossible. In the previous passage, when God talked about his great vision, Abraham laughed out of unbelief. Now in today's passage, Sarah laughed out of unbelief.

 

Up until that time, God had wrestled with them. What they really wanted was a son. In their struggle for a son, sometimes, they were depressed. Then, God visited them and said to them, I will give you many sons. Trust me. He did not give them any son, but encouraged them to believe that he would give them son, even many sons. Then, they believed and were thankful. Then, sometime later, they were depressed again. God visited them and encouraged him, saying, Trust me. I will give you many sons. He didn't give them a son, but just his promise of many sons. They believed and were thankful. Then, later, they were depressed again. God visited them and told them to trust him that he would give them many sons. God did not give them any son, but he encouraged them to believe that he would give them many sons. They believed and were thankful. This had been going on continually. God did not give them any son, but always encouraged them to trust him that he would give them many sons. In this struggle for a son, they had a certain dead line, that was, Sarah's menopause. They expected that God would give them a son before menopause. But God didn't. Then, finally, Sarah was past menopause, and several years passed.God pushed them to the limit, I mean, even beyond the limit. Yet, they still lived as God's covenant people, even if God's promise had not been fulfilled. Wow! How would respond if God pushes you this much, beyond the limit?

 

As shepherds, we want sheep; because of sheep, we laugh and weep. It is painful to be fruitless year after year. And God keeps encouraging us through his words to trust him that he will bless us with many sheep. He encourages us that we will become fathers and mothers of many nations. We believe, and are thankful, yet still no tangible fruit. As this struggle goes on, we feel scared because we are getting old. Like Abraham and Sarah, in our struggle for sheep, we also have a certain deadline - maybe, 7 years, or 10 years. Then, when God goes beyond that deadline, when they remain fruitless, despite their struggle for such long time, there come two different responses. One response is that people become bitter, doubt, and complain, blaming others, even God; many of them fall away; then, theycome to have really bad perspective about life of faith in GodThe other response is that people finally realize what they must really pursue and turn to God. Abraham and Sarah did not fall away, even though they laughed out of unbelief. Even though they laughed out of unbelief, they still lived as God's covenant people, entrusting their life in God's hands. How come? It's because, in the course of their struggle with God for a son for the past 24 years, they came to experience God many times, and thereby, they came to know God personally; their eyes were opened to Him. Then, even though they had not gotten a son, even though God had not given them a son, even if God's promise was not fulfilled, and even if there was no possibility for them to have a son, still they were glad with God and they were determined to live as God's covenant people, finally understanding what God meant, I am your very great reward.Because of God, they would live as God's covenant people.

 

Actually, it might be much easier for God to give them a son, make them happy, and move on to the next phase with Isaac. Then His redemption plan would be accelerated - easy and fast! Yet, instead, He wrestled with them for so many years. Why did He wait so long? He was more concerned about them, than using them for his purpose - they would know him and grow in him. This is what God is doing for us - He is wrestling with us so that we may be purified from our own ambition, self-seeking desire and all other impure things so that we may know him really. Once we see his beauty, we will all fall in love with him. This is what God is pursuing in our life today. Let's come to God and know Him so that we may really love Him with all our heart and strength.

 

For this purpose, God had been wrestling with them all this time - Knowing Him really, opening their eyes to God's goodness and beauty was such an important matter that God had wrestled with them until then. Then, once they saw God's beauty, they were ready to have a son, because, when they knew God's goodness and beauty, when they loved God, nothing would be a problem - even having a son, the very purpose of their whole life struggle would not be a hindrance in their life of faith. What if, after a few year's struggle, God gave them a son? Maybe, they would be really happy and their hearts would be given to him completely that they would not be interested in living as God's covenant people, saying, I am all right. Only if Isaac may live under your blessing. But now, he really knew God, even having a son did not become a matter at all. Later, even when God asked him to send off Ishmael and sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering, still Abraham would choose God over all others by obeying God's commands. 

 

Look at verses 13 through 15. Then the LORD said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son. Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, I did not laugh. But he said, Yes, you did laugh.

 

It seemed that God was having some fun with Abraham and Sarah at this moment, pointing out Sarah's unbelief, but instead of talking to her directly, talking to Abraham about it. And when she said, I did not laugh, God said, Yes, you did laugh.Sarah was embarrassed, but God had some humorous time. After pointing out her unbelief, God said, Is anything too hard for the LORD? How do you respond? Nothing is too hard for the LORD. What about God wrestling with you for 20 years, and then, when you become 40 or even 50, God starts his mighty work with you? Then, in 10 years, maybe, 1,000 disciples under your care, and in the next 10 years, you cover the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God is never late. God's time is the right time, and God's way is the fastest way. Trust God - when the right time comes, He will do mighty works with you, fulfilling his vision upon your life. The only thing is, have faith in God and strive to serve God in spirit, for He seeks that kind of worshipers.

 

Third, So that he will direct his children to keep the way of the LORD (16-33). Look at verse 16 and 17. When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? At Abraham’s hospitality and maturity, God was so happy; he could see that Abraham had become a great man of God. When you become so great like Abraham, God is so happy with you. Then God felt so uneasy that He had not shared His business agenda with him yet! He said, Shall I hide from Abraham about what I am to do? No, he would not. Instead, he would share with Abraham all his business agendas, because he considered him as his business partner.

 

What does it mean to be God’s business partner? God shares with you everything He is going to do. Our service to the Lord should not be like we work hard and He gives us a salary, some glory here and there. Or if I work hard as a shepherd, He will give me a ticket to heaven. If I don’t work hard, He will punish me. Maybe in our spiritual growth, we do start out that way. It’s good to have the fear of God. But we shouldn’t remain at that level! That’s not right – living as a slave to God. That’s the attitude of the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son. If you live that way, it’s the evidence that you don’t know God yet. 

 

So what does it mean to become a business partner? As an employee, you work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. But a partner works 20 hours a day! They have no problem with that. Sleepless nights? No problem. On their own, they figure out the best way to run the business and make a profit – they invest anything and everything. When you are God’s business partner for His world redemption work, all on your own, you figure out the best way possible, and you struggle hard to serve God’s work more effectively, pouring out many hours. Then God does not need to tell you to do this or that, do more. All on your own, you do more than what is expected. You serve God and pursue God wholeheartedly, pouring out all your time, energy, talent and life. People around you cannot understand what you are doing. That’s the meaning of being God’s business partner. Jesus says, I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (Jn 15:15) We must grow up in Jesus. God’s business, God’s plan, God’s kingdom. Jesus considers us His business partners for God’s redemption work. This is a great honor. Who are we? Nothing but dust and ashes. When we were on our own, we had messed up - not so great at allBut because we accepted his covenant, he considers us as His business partners. Let's live as his business partners!

 

Look at verses 18 and 19. Let's read these verses together:

 

v18Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.v19For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.

 

Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. This was God's vision, and God's purpose for Abraham. That's God's will, and by the will of God, it would be done. By the way, how was God going to fulfill this vision of God? That's what he shares in verse 19. God says, For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him. God chose Abraham so that he would direct his children after him to keep the way of the Lord. Abraham directing his children to keep the way of the LORD was the whole purpose of God's calling for him. Then, his children would be those who knew and keep the way of the LORD by doing what was right and just. What kind of people? Those who do what is right and just, at work, at home, at school, and in the church, whether people watch them or not. At work, with or without any supervision, they do what is right and just; on the streets, they do what is right and just - no wickedness, no deceit, no malice is found in them - they are great people, very honest, sound and healthy in every aspect. When these people form a nation, it is a great and powerful nation all whose people do what is right and just. Then, they direct all the nations on the earth to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just; thus, all peoples on earth are taught the way of the LORD, and come to live such a wonderful life, doing what is right and just, overcoming their sinful nature. Thus, God's vision for Abraham be fulfilled. This verse reveals God's master plan for Abraham; this is God's master plan for all his covenant people. God chose Abraham to be a blessing so that all peoples on earth may be blessed through him. How would this vision of God be fulfilled? It would be fulfilled as Abraham direct his children to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. Basically, what does it mean to be a blessing? It means to be a Bible teacher. God called us to be the fathers and mothers of many nations. How does this vision of God be fulfilled in our life? As we go and direct others, college students to keep the way of the LORD - for this, he called us - to be Bible teachers for college students.

 

How would Abraham know the way of the LORD, God's way? By experiencing him and knowing Him - his person, his perspective, his purpose, his desire, his hope, and his style. That's what's going on as God and Abraham had wrestled together in regard to the son matter, financial matter, war matter, and fear matter,... In great victories and in great failures, Abraham experienced God. Through all these struggles together with God, Abraham came to know God very personally, and thereby, came to know what kind of Person God was, what He likes, what He dislikes, what He hopes, and how He deals with things. Thus, he could understand God's way, and direct others in the way of the Lord. As we struggle to do God's work, sometimes, we weep in deep pains and sorrows; sometimes, we leap for joy; sometimes, we taste terrible failures, and sometimes, we are victorious. But there is no real failure in God, because, through such struggles, we come to know God more and more, and thereby, we are growing up in Him. We are like just mighty warriors with so many battle scars in our back, on arms, and even in the face, well experienced in the spiritual world, and thereby, understanding it very well - no longer just naive weak Christians, but indeed, mighty warriors for God. We can direct many people in the way of the Lord, showing them what to do and what not to do, which to go and not to go, and how they must live their lives. As God established Abraham as a good Bible teacher to fulfill his grand vision for him, God is establishing us as good Bible teachers who know Him very well and thereby, direct others in the way of the Lord. Then, when we see God fulfilling his vision upon our life, we will shout for joy and render glory to God.

 

Also, when we think about this verse, we can see what it means to be a Bible teacher. God says, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Teaching the Bible to others does not mean that you just share your knowledge of the Bible with them; rather, it means that you help them see what God wants them to do and do it. People are sinful, worldly, and selfish. In nature, people don't have inclination to do what is right and just. So, we wrestle with them, sometimes challenging them, and sometimes, comforting them to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then, thanks to our labor of love, thanks to our patience, they begin to pay attention to what God wants them to do and grow in God; eventually, under our care, they become strong men and women of God whose hearts are fully dedicated to Him. That's what it means to direct people in the way of the Lord; that's what it means to be Bible teachers. Simply, it means to be shepherds for God's flock.

 

Fourth, For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it (20-33). Look at verses 20 and 21. Then the LORD said, The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know. The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. God shared His concern about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The outcry against them had reached God’s ears. What does this mean? When travelers visited these cities, they were molested and experienced terrible injustice; maybe, their sons or daughters were kidnappedThey were so angry and bitter, wanting revenge. But since all townspeople did the crime together, there was nothing they could. Out of frustration, they cried out, shouting, Ahhhhhh! That reached God’s ears. We must not do anything wicked against anyone, lest they cry against us. Also,we see that when sin reaches its limit, God’s judgment comes. God deals with people's sin. When wickedness is going on, entrust that matter in God’s hands, because God Himself is burdened about that. God is the God of love, but He is also the Judge of all – He must be fair. Through this event, Abraham learned God's justice.

 

But why did God come to earth in human form? That’s a little cumbersome. He could see everything better from heaven, in 4D! Why did He want to check it out? It seemed that God was not so delighted about destroying these cities, even though the outcry against them was so great. Maybe He was looking for a way to not destroy them – maybe He wanted to give them a chance. God does not delight in the destruction of wicked people. 

 

In verses 22 through 33, we see Abraham praying for the city of Sodom. Abraham asked God to save the righteous people in Sodom, and for the sake of the righteous people, even spare the whole city. He started with 50 righteous people, then 45, then 40, then 30, 20, and finally 10. Each time, God agreed. They exchanged their opinions, and together they drew a conclusion of how God should deal with the matter. Who was Abraham? He was just a human, nothing but dust and ashes. Yet, he suggested God how to deal with the judgment matter, and God accepted all his suggestions. Indeed, Abraham was God's council member - his business partner. What an amazing thing it is that God wants us to grow to be his council members so that He can discuss his business matters with us! 

 

The reason why Abraham was so persistent about sparing the city of Sodom was because his nephew Lot was living in that city. When some practical benefit was concerned, Lot freely left him, and Abraham was hurt. Yet, when Lot's life was at stake, he prayed wholeheartedly for his sake. In his prayer, Abraham never mentioned about Lot, but God knew why he was doing so. So, later, when God was going to destroy Sodom, because there were not 10 righteous people in it, still He rescued Lot, because of Abraham. When you pray for your loved ones, God remembers youHe might save them and give them a chance because of your prayer. 

 

God says, For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it. About 25 years ago, there was big commotion among Christians because some Christians prophesied that Los Angeles would be destroyed. It was widespread, and people were scared. Then, someone asked missionary Isaac Kim about it. At that time, he said, If there are 10 righteous people in Los Angeles, God will not destroy it. Then, sometime later, about a few years ago, again some people, even some famous preachers said that God would destroy Los Angeles, and they suggested that we must move to Arizona or Texas. At this, some Christians and even some pastors were alarmed that they moved to Texas, and, of course, nothing happened. There are always strange people, saying that they are prophets, or saying that they have seen something in their dreams; don't be deceived by them. Instead, struggle to be in the right relationship with God. When you do so, you have nothing to be afraid of, because, for your sake, God will spare the whole city of Los Angeles.

 

In his prayer, Abraham said, Though I am nothing but dust and ashes, in verse 27, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak, in verse 30, Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, in verse 31, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more, in verse 32. God considered Abraham so highly, honoring all his suggestions, yet Abraham did not take it for granted. Instead, in his prayer, he approached God very humbly and sincerely. God honored Abraham highly and Abraham honored God as his Creator.

 

Let’s grow up as such sincere, humble, and considerate people. Worldly education encourages us to show off so that our voice may be heard. But the Bible shows us how we must grow up. We must grow in God's image - humble, submissive, thoughtful, polite, and righteous - such great people

 

One Word: So That He Will Direct His Children To Keep The Way Of The LORD

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

posted Dec 1, 2019, 9:11 PM by Site Administrator

YOU WILL BE THE FATHER OF MANY NATIONS

 

Genesis 17:1-27

Key Verse 17:4

 

As for me, this is my covenant: You will be the father of many nations.

 

First, You will be the Father of many nations (1-8).Look at verse 1. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. So far, in Abram’s life of faith, God never rebuked him even though Abram had made many mistakes such as telling lies or having Hagar as concubine. But this time, when God appeared to him, He rebuked him, saying, Walk before me and be blameless. Why? What terrible crime did Abram commit that God had to appear to him to rebuke him? Actually, when we check out the passage, we see that Abram had not done anything particularly sinful or wicked; instead, we see that he had struggled to be an exalted father for his son Ishmael. It was his dream to have a son; maybe, that’s the very reason why he started his life of faith, and now when he finally had a son, he was content; he was just happy to watch his son growing, and he had all he needed. What about his relationship with God? Of course, he thanked God, attending worship service every Sunday, doing some good things such as, tossing some coins to the beggars on the street, but without any passion or zeal for God’s purpose. He was just going through the motion, without passion and zeal for God’s will, being complacent; his whole focus was his son, and his whole struggle was to take care of him well, protect him well, educate him well and grow him well. In human eyes, he was just living as a sound citizen, exalted father for his son. But in God’s eyes, it was terrible; living that kind of a small citizen’s life, just going through the motion was terrible. So, God appeared to him and rebuked him, saying, “Walk before me and be blameless.” Such life was full of blame in God’s eyes. Abram should not walk before his son, but before God; he should not live to take care of his son as a good father, but he must live to please God as God’s covenant person.

 

When people live as Sunday Christians, when they just go through the motion, they still have their heart’s consolation,saying, “At least, I go to church. Or, they say, “At least, I don’t do any evil.” But that kind of tasteless life itself is terrible in God’s eyes. God rebukes such people, saying, “Walk before me and be blameless.” Jesus says in Revelation, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16) We must not be cold to Jesus, so there is only one way to go, that is, to be hot before him; never be lukewarm; never console yourself that at least you go to church. Instead, be hot for Jesus Christ; pursue his kingdom with all your heart. Burn for him!

 

In verse 2, God says, I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers. The reason God appeared to Abram was to confirm his covenant with him. In the covenant, two parties are related, and the covenant is only valid when both parties keep their end of the deal. In verses 4 through 8, God talks about his end of the covenant, saying, As for me,… Here, we see God confirming his promises to Abram, using the phrase, I will… repeatedly. I will make you very fruitful I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant.These were what God would do for Abram. By the will of God, God’s promises would be fulfilled according to the terms and conditions of the covenant between God and Abram. What was God’s part of the deal? Look at verses 4 and 5. Let’s read these verses together:

 

As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

 

You will be the father of many nations! This was the vision God had for Abram. God’s vision was that He would establish many nations through Abram- godly, holy and glorious nations through Abram. And God was working to fulfill this. And even God said, For I have made you a father of many nations. Here, God uses the present perfect tense, saying, have made, indicating that in God's eyes, God had already made Abram a father of many nations. It meant that God had planned thoroughly of how he was going to establish Abram as the father of many nations; everything was completely planned and arranged that in God's eyes, it was already a done deal - it was just a matter of time; as the time passed by, things would go as God had already planned and then, Abram would turn out to be the father of many nations. But then, while God was proceeding his plan for Abram, a problem popped up - when Abram had a son, he was content and lost his interest in this covenant with God. He did not live as God’s covenant person any longer. That would be the breach of the covenant, and God's vision for Abram could not be fulfilled. It was a serious problem. So, God visited him to reaffirm this covenant with Abram.

 

You will be the father of many nations. This was God's vision for Abram. This was God's will for him. In God's eyes, Abram was a material for the father of many nations; Abram had such great potential. And God was proceeding all his plans to make this vision, this potential of Abram come true. Abram’s life shouldn’t be wasted away for a small thing like a small citizen’s life, but it should produce glorious fruit as God planned, as his life capacity really was. God was going to bring out all his potential, and through him, God would establish many nations of people who loved God and served His purpose wholeheartedly. Abram should have dreamed about establishing many kingdoms and taking care of them, instead of playing around his son.

 

You will be the father of many nations. This is what God sees in us, because He created us in his image and in his likeness. And God really can make this vision come true for each of us. Because of our lack of faith in God, we, often, do not see how great things we can do in God, so we only think about survival, or paying the bills, or at best, being exalted fathers or mothers or faithful husbands or wives. But God knows how wonderfully and greatly He made us, and He sees our great potential that we can be the fathers of many nations, mothers of many nations, that we can establish many kingdoms of people who love God and serve God’s purpose wholeheartedly. Only when we remain in his covenant, He will make all our potential come true, and He will establish 50 churches in California through us, and all students in California will have the chance to study the word of God and grow as powerful servants of God. Actually, it is a small thing for us to bring the lost people back to God in California. Through us, many great kingdoms will be established in California, in America, and in the world. God says, As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. God says that this is what He must do for us. This is the vision of God for us. This is God’s promise for us, and it will be done if we remain in the covenant relationship with him. This is what God will do for us.

 

With this, God changed Abram's name, saying, No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. The name, Abrammeans exalted father, whereas the new name, Abrahammeans father of many nations. It was Abram’s dream to be an exalted father, taking care of his son Ishmael very well, establishing him as a good man successfully, thus, receiving good reputation as a father. He was happy when his son received the honor-roll award at the elementary school. He was living for this. But now God changed his name to Abraham. And thereby, the old man who was pursuing his own desire, named Abram did not exist on the earth, but a new man, named Abraham who was living according to God's vision and purpose existed. God said to him, No longer will you be called Abram… No longer…Instead, God gave him the new name, Abraham, so that he would never forget God’s vision for his life. Whenever someone called him, Abraham, he would remember God’s great vision for his life and live for it. 

 

There was a young Christian boy who thought that his life would be worthwhile if his life was used to bring his girlfriend to heaven. So, he decided to dedicate himself to serving his girlfriend in hope to bring her to heaven. But his Bible teacher told him, God’s vision for you is greater than that. We all have the desire to be Abram, exalted father, good mother, or faithful husband, lovely wife, or faithful employee. Being Abram is not necessarily bad; even it is not easy to become an exalted father – it requires a lot of struggles, hanging out with his son, helping him with his homework, trying to understand him, and showing him the right path to go patiently. Frankly speaking, we rarely find a good father in this wicked and adulterous generation. But because of this dream of being an exalted or good or noble father, ultimately, many people end up rejecting God’s vision for their life. That's why in God's eyes, when He aims to establish his people, this small citizen's dream is nothing but an obstacle, which He has to overcome; so, by any means, He challenges them to get rid of it, get rid of that small citizen's desires and dreams from their hearts and life, so that they can accept God's grand covenant vision for their life. About this, Jesus says, Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37) As long as we try to live as an Abram, an exalted father, we cannot live as God’s covenant people. We must let go of our dream to be an exalted father, so that we can have God’s dream for us to be the father of many nations. God says, No longer will you be called Abram… No longer will you be called a noble husband…No longer will you be called a cute girl… No longer will you be called a faithful employee… Your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

 

Look at verse 6. Let’s read this verse together: 

 

I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.

 

These promises of God are really intriguing and inspiring. Kings will come from you. So many great people will come from you. So many powerful world class spiritual leaders will come from you. Great disciples will be established through you. Great churches will be established through you. These things are what God wants to do with you. Then, how silly will it be that you reject this will of God so that you can take care of your son very well? It’s almost wickedness before God. If your life goes that way, then, it is nothing but a total waste! It’s great sin before God. God says to you, “I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.”

 

Look at verse 7. Let’s read this verse together:

 

I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

 

Now God extended his covenant with Abraham as an everlasting covenant. So, 4,000 years ago, Abraham enjoyed this covenant, and then died. After him, his descendants enjoyed this covenant and then, died. 2,000 years ago, some people enjoyed this covenant and died as God's covenant people. Now today, still this covenant is going on between God and his covenant people. This is an everlasting covenant. Why did God make his covenant with Abram an everlasting covenant? He shares his purpose, saying, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Through this covenant, God became the God of Abraham; and in the same way, God would be the God of Abraham's descendants after him through the same covenant generation after generation. God is the God of those who have His covenant. Today, God wants to become our God, so He offers his covenant to us. Those who accept God's covenant vision and live for it become God's covenant people, and God becomes their God. This covenant, the same covenant given to Abraham in the book of Genesis, is available for Abraham's descendants. Then, who are Abraham's descendants? The Jewish people thought that they were Abraham's descendants, because they were Abraham's biological descendants. But that's not the case. Abraham had two biological sons - Ishmael and Isaac. But God does not consider Ishmael, his firstborn son, as Abraham's offspring; instead, God says that only through Isaac, his descendants will be reckoned. So, not all the biological descendants of Abraham are Abraham's descendants. About this, when the Jews claimed that they were Abraham's descendants, Jesus said that if they were so, they would do what Abraham did. So, Abraham's descendants are those who do what Abraham did. What did Abraham do? When God offered him His covenant, Abraham accepted it, by leaving his country, his people and his father's household and going to the land God showed him; and even though he had many weaknesses and difficulties, he lived for God holding onto God's covenant vision upon his life, sometimes weeping, and sometimes, laughing. Abraham's descendants are those who do the same thing Abraham did. The apostle Paul says that those who walk in the footsteps of Abraham are Abraham's children. Then, again, what about the Jews? When the Jews insisted that they were children of Abraham, Jesus told them that they were actually, children of the devil, doing what the devil wanted them to do. Again, today, this everlasting covenant between God and his people is going on. God offers us the same covenant given to Abraham so that He can be our God and we can be his people. God says, Leave your country, your people, and your father's household, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. You will be a blessing, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. You will be the father of many nations. You will be the mother of many nations. Kings will come from you. Do you accept this great vision of God for your life? Do you respond to this calling of God by leaving your old life and starting a new life as God’s covenant person, pursuing God’s great vision for your life? When you do so, you enter into this covenant with God, and you will be the father of many nations – God will do it for you. 

 

SecondYou shall be circumcised (9-16). In verses 9 through 14, God talks about Abraham’s end of the deal, by saying, As for you, you must keep my covenant. Let’s shout this together. “As for you, you must keep your covenant.” People think that no matter what they do, God will do everything; or they do whatever they want to do, saying If it is not God’s will, He will let me know. They are greatly mistaken. Covenant is a contract – two parties are related, and there are terms and conditions, and both parties must keep their end of the deal. In your relationship with God, there are things you must do. Remember this! Do you want God to do great things for you? Then, God says, You must keep your covenant. What should Abraham do to keep the covenant? Look at verses 10 and 11. Let’s read these verses together: 

 

10This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male and you shall be circumcised. 11You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

 

Since Abraham left his country and his people and his father’s household according to God’s calling, there was nothing else Abraham should do to fulfill the covenant, except one thing, that he would just remain in the covenant. As he started his covenant relationship with God in Genesis 12 by accepting God’s vision of being a source of blessing for all peoples on earth, he just needed to keep this vision of God in his heart all the time, then, God would fulfill his part of the deal. Right then, he was not keeping his covenant, because he gave his heart to something else – his desire to be a good father for his son Ishmael. So, God asked him to keep his covenant by cutting off that desire, so that, instead of pursuing a small citizen’s desire to be a good father for his son, he would pursue God’s great vision upon his life. Circumcision was the sign that he cut off his small’s citizen’s desire to be an exalted father for his son Ishmael and accept God’s great vision for him to be the father of many nations. In this way, with the circumcision, God wanted Abraham to be very practical and concrete in his decision to live as his covenant person. Simply, accept God’s vision, and make your decision very clear through circumcision. The circumcision would be the expression of his acceptance of God’s vision upon his life. How could he accept God's grand covenant vision for his life? By cutting off his small citizen's desire to be an exalted father for his son Ishmael! That's what circumcision is about - cutting off one's own small citizen's desire to live for God's grand covenant vision for his life. Without this circumcision (not just physical one, but real one), we are not God’s covenant people, and God says, Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant. The real stumbling block as we strive to live as God’s covenant people is not terrible persecution, or suffering, but our small citizen’s desire to be Abram, to be an exalted father, good mother, noble husband, lovely wife, or faithful employee. The Bible declares, Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24) Again, Jesus says, ““Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

 

God commanded Abraham to circumcise not only himself, but also his son, and all the males in his household. So, in his household, everyone would be circumcised, accepting God's covenant vision for Abraham’s life, and pursuing it; so, all the people in his household share the same vision, the same hope and the same value system and the same lifestyle; they are really one, having the same concern, hope vision and lifestyle. So, they can communicate with each other freely, and in one mind and heart, they can pursue God's grand covenant vision for Abrahamall together. This is the concept of the church - all the members being circumcised, living for God's purpose alone, and pursuing God's great vision for Abraham’s life all together in one mind and heart. Then, what about anyone who did not have the circumcision in Abraham's household? While others pursue God's great vision for their life together in one mind and heart, his vision, plan, hope and direction were all different from others; simply, he could not be one with them; eventually, such a person would be cut off from Abraham's household. This is what we have witnessed all this time – eventually, they refused to be one with us, and thereby, fell off. All of us must be circumcised - get rid of your small citizen's dream and live for God's great vision for your life that you will be the fathers and mothers of many nations. 

 

Look at verses 15 and 16. Let’s read these verses together:

 

15God also said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of people will come from her.

 

The name Sarai means my princess, whereas the name “Sarah” means “mother of nations.” The expression, “my princess” shows princess’ mindset. A girl with princess mindset wants all people to center around her, gathering around her, admiring her beauty, her dress, her earrings, desiring to dance with her. Think about Sarai living as Sarai with princess mindset, while her husband was Abraham, father of many nations. It would be really painful for her to see her husband struggling with other people all the time, instead of focusing on her and admiring her - surely, there will be a lot of disappointment, arguments and fighting, and this kind of family cannot stand. She must not live as a self-centered princess any longer, but as the mother of many nations. This new name “Sarah” has the image of a mother who cares for so many children. She is so broad-minded that many children with different characters and life-background can find enough room to enjoy their life freely under her care. If husband is a father of many nations, then, wife should also be a mother of many nations. So God changed Sarai’s name into Sarah so that she would be a suitable helper for Abraham to live as the father of many nations. Husband and wife must share the same vision of God. Thus, God established God’s covenant family.

 

Third, But my covenant I will establish with Isaac(17-23). What was Abraham's response? Look at verses 17 and 18. Let’s read these verses together: 

 

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?  18  And Abraham said to God, If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”“

 

Abraham fell facedown. In today's passage, we see this expression two times - verses 3 and 17. Whenever God talked to him, Abraham fell facedown, showing his respect to God. That's Abraham's basic attitude toward God. But the problem was that that was it - just basic respect to God, and nothing more. Instead, while falling facedown, he was entertaining all kinds of doubts; when God mentioned about Sarah giving birth to a son, and many kings of people coming from her, Abraham laughed, because he didn't believe that God would be able to do so; at God's promises of a son through Sarah, Abraham chuckled. Many people like Abraham, show basic respect toward God - on Sunday, at least they come to church; but the problem is that that's it - no more than that. Instead, while the worship service is going on, they keep checking out their watch because of their golf schedule, and they only wonder when the pastor will finish his sermon. When people do not have God's grand covenant vision for their life, they cannot really please God, and they don't know how they must live their life and what they must do with their life; simply, they cannot have a real meaningful relationship with God.

 

Abraham suggested God, saying, If only Ishmael might live under your blessing! Abraham's understanding was that since God could not do anything for him because he was too old to produce children, God could do some great things with Ishmael because Ishmael was young and thereby, could have children. So, he politely rejected God's offer for him, and suggested God to continue his work with Ishmael. He was really bad. At the beginning of his life of faith, when he left his old life and cut family ties to live as God's covenant person, he was really great and powerful - he was simply unstoppable; when he sacrificed millions of dollars for the sake of rendering glory to God, he was really powerful; by faith, he acquired righteous standing before God. He was such a great man of God with many great exploits. But now in this passage, we see Abraham losing such passion and zeal and becoming so terribleWhen he pursued his small citizen's desire to be an exalted father for his son Ishmael, he lost his faith and became a strange person - just going through the motion, but no zeal or passion for God, and no faith at all. No wonder God rebuked him, saying, Walk before me and be blameless. It was never his intention to be like this; how happy he was when he first touched his son’s tiny foot! Maybe, he said, “Oh, my,…” Indeed, he never imagined that he would be so terrible before God when he first began struggling to be an exalted father. But that’s what happened to even a great man of God like AbrahamThis passage is a warning for all God’s people about giving into our small citizen’s dream. At first, having a small citizen’s dream looks harmless; even it is considered good, not only in the world, but also in the Bible – honor your father and mother; parents must take care of children very well; even it is God’s purpose in Jesus that through his sacrifice, fathers’ hearts will turn to their children; Jesus encourages us to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But make sure that your devotion to God is not hindered by that kind of desire. Otherwise, if your heart is given to such a desire, then, you will be like Abraham! Don’t pursue these things, but let these good things follow you, as you pursue God’s will and purpose wholeheartedly. Your testimony should not be: If only Ishmael might live under your blessing. Instead, your testimony should be: Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Look at verses 19 through 21. Let’s read these verses together:

 

Then God said, Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.  20  And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.  21  But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.

 

God now mentioned about the name of the son Sarah would bear - Isaac, and told Abraham that He would establish his covenant with Isaac as an everlasting covenant. About Ishmael, God would bless him greatly because he as Abraham’s son; Ishmael would be a great nation; he would be the ruler of twelve tribes. But God made sure that He would give his covenant blessing only to Isaac, not Ishmael. 

 

Here, we see two different kinds of blessings - Blessings given to Ishmael-happy family, many children, successful life, richness, and children becoming influential leaders in the world; and God's covenant blessing given to Isaac. God made a clear distinction between these two that his covenant blessing was really a special blessing, and God would give this covenant blessing to only Isaac not Ishmael. It was because Ishmael was the product of unbelief, compromise, impatience, and fatalistic idea, whereas Isaac was the product of God's word of promise, the product of Abraham and Sarah's life of faith. It was not easy for Abraham and Sarah to hold onto God's promise; they wept and cried; they had a lot of pains and sorrows to hold onto God's promise. But overcoming all those challenges, they remained in God holding onto God's great covenant vision. And through their life of faith, finally, Isaac was born, and God was going to pour out his real blessing on Isaac. God's covenant blessing is real blessing; it is the special blessing. When we think about how Isaac was born, we see that our birth into God's family was really like Isaac's birth. We were born again by God's words, and through someone's wholehearted struggle of faith, such as our shepherds. And God's covenant is given to us, and we are enjoying it, pursuing God's great vision for us, saying, I will be the father of many nations; I will conquer the world. The covenant blessing we are enjoying is real blessing, special one, far greater than material blessings or happy family or career job. Some people exchange this covenant blessing for other things easily such as marriage, or a job offer. They despise God's covenant blessing just like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup, and God despises them calling them as godless people.

 

Look at verse 22. When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. God did not wait for Abraham’s response. After finishing his words, he went up. God trusted Abraham. What was Abraham’s response? Let's read verse 23 together:

 

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.

 

On that very day, Abraham accepted God’s vision to be the father of many nations, and made a decision to cut off his small citizen’s dream of being an exalted father for Ishmael. So far, he had pursued a son, but now he would live for God’s vision. It was a turning point in his life. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised.

 

As we check out Abraham's life of faith so far, from Genesis 12 to 17, we see that Abraham was not perfect; instead, he had many weaknesses and made many mistakes. But despite all his weaknesses and mistakes, one great thing he had was that he was teachable. Even though sometimes he was frustrated, and even though he doubted, when God corrected him, Abraham accepted it and continued on his journey of faith. Because he was teachable, God could guide him into deeper spiritual world continually and establish him as a great man of God, fulfilling his purpose upon his life. Being teachable, this is what we all need for us to grow up in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we end up remaining in our own understanding, in our own territory, never growing up, and we become just a source of burden. Today, God calls us to his covenant, saying, You will be the father of many nations. You will be the mother of many nations. What is your response? 

 

One Word:No Longer Abram, But Abraham, Father of Many Nations

Sunday, November 24, 2019

posted Nov 24, 2019, 8:37 PM by Site Administrator

YOU ARE THE GOD WHO SEES ME

 

Genesis 16:1-16

Key Verse 16:13

 

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

 

First, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering” (1-6). Look at verses 1 and 2. Sarai suggested that Abram take Hagar, her maidservant as his second wife. Abram accepted it and slept with her. 10 years had passed since God had called Abram and given him His promise of a son. Yet he still had no son, even though he had followed God faithfully for 10 years. During this long time, they sometimes prayed for a son and were confident, laughing and smiling and thanking God. Other times, they were depressed and sad. Then they comforted one another and were encouraged again, and again depressed. They went through this cycle for so long! Indeed, they had struggled hard with this matter. Then, finally they had run out of patience. Sarai felt so sorry that because of her, Abram had no child. Then she thought about some tangible way to solve the problem – Abram taking Hagar as a second wife. That’s something that no wife wants, but she was so distressed and serious about this matter that she came up with such a painful idea. She decided to make such a great sacrifice, swallowing the sense of humiliation, sorrow, and pain. Who could understand her agony that drove her to make this suggestion?

 

Abram accepted it. It sounded like a good solution. Anyway, the son would be from Abram’s own body, as God had promised. They rationalized that maybe this was what God meant. But what was the basis of their rationale?  Sarai said, “The Lord has kept me from having children.” This was Sarai’s view of God, God’s will, and her life – so fatalistic, bitter and negative. Since God kept her from having children, what could humans do? Nothing! This rationale came from Sarai’s fatalistic way of thinking.  

 

We must be very careful about this. Any direction or decision we make must not come from unbelief or a sense of defeat or from fear. Many people make decisions based on fear for their future. For example, some people are scared about making real commitment to God, thinking that if they pursue God wholeheartedly, their life will be ruined. Some people, due to their failures in fishing and disciple-making, suggest that we should use some other methods. Our decisions or directions must not come from the sense of failure or sense of defeatism. Instead, whenever we have a certain decision, it must come from our absolute faith in God’s goodness and love for us. The Bible says, “The righteous will live by faith from first to last.” Also, the Bible says, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Rm 14:23) People’s suggestions might sound reasonable, but if it’s based on fear or a sense of defeat, it’s sin! We must never make a decision based on that, but based on our absolute faith in God. That’s how Christians should live, instead of being defeated by the challenging reality.

 

               Look at verse 4. It reads: “He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.” Hagar began to despise her mistress! That’s totally unexpected. That’s not acceptable at all! Hagar was a slave girl. Even though she was pregnant, she was not supposed to despise her mistress. How old was Sarai? 75 years old! Hagar was maybe 18 years old! Or maybe 25, or maybe 30. And she was a servant! It was really not right. She had to remember and keep her place. But she became proud, thinking of herself so highly. Groundless pride.

 

Why did she become so proud like this? Because she did what Sarai could not do. This is the danger of seeing ourselves based on what we do, comparing ourselves to others. What we do must never be the grounds for us to think of ourselves highly. If we allow this line of thinking, it only proves that we are not so great at all, so shallow, controlled by our sinful nature. Such praise comes from God alone, not from ourselves. Later, God says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Take charge of ten cities.” At that time, our greatness is real. If we evaluate ourselves so highly first, it means nothing. Instead, what will happen? Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” Never evaluate yourself based on what you do. Instead, see yourselves before God alone, and struggle to do what you are asked to do.

 

Look at verses 5 and 6. Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” Then, Abram said, “Your servant is in your hands. Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

 

In this situation, we see three people – Sarai, Abram, and Hagar. Sarai was really upset! Think about her pain, embarrassment, frustration, anger – she had made such a great sacrifice, and then this little slave girl acted like this. She was really angry. When you are in her shoes, how would you respond? Maybe, so angry that you would punish her terribly, or do some crazy things against her. Yet, what did she do? She went to Abram. Instead of dealing with it on her own, she first talked to Abram, because he was the head of the family.

 

How did Abram respond? Usually when there are conflicts like this, the husband might try to protect the newer wife against the old wife. What would have happened, if Abram stood on Hagar’s side? Perhaps, Sarai might be really hurt, and the unity in the family broken. But at that time, Abram respected the authority of Sarai as the mistress in the household. He kept the order in the family. As a result, God’s covenant family stood firm. In this way, when a conflicting situation arose, Sarai and Abram showed respected to each other.

 

What about Hagar? She was not behaving in a proper way at all – despising her mistress was unthinkable! And when it backfired, she ran away. What kind of woman was she? Immature, thoughtless, and rebellious, just a little young girl.

 

Thus, everyone suffered – Sarai, Abram, and Hagar. At first, this whole idea had looked like a good and quick solution, but it turned out to be the wrong way. In this precious covenant family, there had been peace and thanks and respect, but now there was bitterness, strife, mistreatment, anger, deep anxiety, sorrows. Human solution is never the right solution. Only God’s way is the real solution. People think God’s way is slow, but it is actually the fastest way. Instead of just jumping into the situation with a quick human solution, pray and wait for God’s help. God’s way is the best way.

 

               Second, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from?” (7-10). They had messed up – things had turned out terrible and everyone was suffering. They were helpless, nothing they could do. Then God intervened into the situation and took care of the mess. The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. Look at verses 8 and 9. Let’s read these verses together:

 

And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I'm running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 

 

How was Hagar in the desert? She was sorrowful, lonely, and scared. It was all because of her fault! Her immaturity! She despised her mistress, she ran away. But she did not see it that way. Instead, she was just genuinely broken, crying, “Why does my life go this way? How come no one understands me?” Her future was unknown. Most likely, she would perish in the desert. It seemed that she was all alone. Then God visited her and talked with her. This must have been a big thing to her.

 

God called Hagar a servant of Sarai, reminding her of her position, that she was Sarai’s servant. As Sarai’s servant, she was not supposed to despise her mistress. She was not supposed to flee from her, either. It was her fault. Based on this, God gave her the direction to go back to Sarai and submit to her.

 

Here we learn God’s way of helping people, that is, to help them clarify their position and keep it. Let’s say you have some conflict with others. If God visits you, what would He say? Keep your position. That’s how God helps people. This is God’s way. So many problems occur and many people suffer because they do not keep their position. They say or do what they are not supposed to say or do. That’s what Satan did. That’s how Adam and Eve fell. That’s how today, so many people become Satan’s instruments at home, at work, and even in the church.

 

We need to remember who we are and what our position is. At that time, everything goes wonderfully. Those who fear God keep their position, instead of going by their feelings, emotions such as anger or the sense of injustice. Such people are really great. When people go beyond their positions and cause troubles with others, they have some reasons, maybe bitterness or anger, and thereby, they want revenge; they want to bring harm to the other person. Or they experience some injustice and they are angry. That’s how people fall into Satan’s hands. But no such things can justify their action of going beyond their position in God’s eyes. Think about how Judas Iscariot became Satan’s instrument: at the last supper, when Jesus exposed his betrayal openly with a piece of bread, his response was not good at all; he grabbed it and left, showing that he was really angry at Jesus, and he wanted to revenge. About that, the Bible describes, “Satan entered into him.” (Jn 13:27) Know your position and keep it – such people are really humble and great in God’s eyes.

 

In verse 10, God promised Hagar that He would increase her descendants that they would be too numerous to count. In Genesis 25, we see that her son, Ishmael had 12 sons, and they all became leaders, forming kingdoms. The descendants of the first son, Nebaioth, and the second son, Kedar are mentioned in the Bible several times. These Nabateans and the Kedarites fought against the Assyrian empire, and later, they teamed up with the Babylonian empire, playing a certain role in the rise of the Babylonian empire. The Nabateans were the very ones who occupied Petra after the Edomites, and soon, it was developed into a big city with about 200,000 population – it was the Nabateans’ capital city. The Nabateans supported the Hasmonean dynasty in their fight against the Seleucid kingdom in Syria; they also fought against Herod the Great, and later, as an ally of the Roman Empire, flourished throughout the 1st century. Its power extended far into Arabia along the Red Sea to Yemen, including Syria, Jordan, Sinai Peninsula, and about 1/3 of Saudi Arabia. As time went by, under Pax Romana, the Nabateans lost their warlike and nomadic habits, and became a sober, acquisitive and orderly people wholly intent on trade and agriculture. By the 5th century they had converted to Christianity. Later, in the 6th century, their lands were divided among new Arab invaders such as the new Qahtanite Arab tribal kingdoms of the Byzantine vassals, the Ghassanid Arabs, and the Himyarite vassals, the Kindah Arab Kingdom in North Arabia. Some of these Arab invaders later became Christians, while majority of them, as Islam was introduced in the 7th century (610 A.D) and spread in the Middle East, became Islamic countries. That’s just the first and second sons of Ishmael’s 12 sons. Indeed, as God promised, the descendants of Ishmael were numerous, and they played significant role in the history of the Middle East.

 

Third, “You are the God who sees me” (11-16). Look at verse 11. Let’s read this verse together:

 

The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. 

 

“You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.” Ishmael means “God hears.” How amazing this was! God heard her misery! She was crying and crying in the desert, wondering why her life was so hard, saying that no one understood her. Actually, it was due to all her fault that she had such misery. She was promoted from a slave girl to her master’s wife, only because of her mistress Sarai’s marvelous favor; yet, instead of thanking her for such great favor, she despised her mistress, then, when backfired, she ran away. It was all her fault! It seemed she deserved such misery. Yet, when she was crying and crying in misery, God heard her misery and had pity on her. God did not see her based on what she had done, but when she was crying out of misery, his heart went to her, and he wanted to help her. God is such an amazing Person.

 

When we think about how God heard her misery, we realize that that’s actually how He treated us as well. We were in deep agony, sorrows, meaninglessness, bitterness, emptiness. We were perishing and we could not go on any longer. Why were we in such misery? It was all because of our fault! We gave into sin, we were rebellious, we didn’t care. But when we were broken, when we were in misery, when we shed tears, God heard our misery and had pity on us. He wanted to help us. Our God is such a Person that when He sees someone crying, His heart goes to that person. Even if we commit serious sins, even if we deserve death penalty, but when we cry, his heart goes to us. Indeed, our God does not despise a broken and contrite heart. Our God is that kind of Person. He is so tender and compassionate, slow to anger, willing to forgive. He is love.  Because of God’s compassionate heart for us, today we live this new life. Because of God’s love, today we know Him and we now love Him. Because of his love, we have this chance to love Him back, doing what He wants us to do; today, our life has meaning and purpose, all because, when we were broken, God heard our misery.

 

God asked her to name her son, “Ishmael,” which means,
“God hears.” God wanted her to make history of this fact – God heard her misery. God heard your misery. Now don’t forget God’s amazing grace upon your life. Make a history of it.

 

Look at verse 12. Let’s read this verse together:

 

He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.

 

Here, God foretold Hagar what kind of people her descendants would be – people like wild donkey, violent, hostile and rebellious, fighting against everyone around them. While studying this passage, I was embarrassed. I didn’t know whether verse 11 was God’s blessing or God’s curse. Then, during Bible study, God’s help came to me. It seems that this was God’s rebuke for her being proud and rebellious against her mistress. She was in a difficult situation, in great misery. So, God didn’t openly rebuke her, yet, still what she had done was really wrong, and now God was showing her the consequences of her proud and rebellious attitude – her descendants would be wild donkeys of men, hostile, and fighting against everyone around them. Long time ago, I read a news article about study of the comparison between the Puritans’ descendants and the criminals’ descendants. About two hundred years had passed since the pilgrim fathers came to America. When they checked out, they found that among the criminals’ descendants were a lot of criminals, doing all kinds of felony; and among the descendants of the pilgrims, a lot of influential leaders came out such as the professors and deans of the prominent universities. Similar studies have been conducted, and they show the same results consistently, and their conclusion was that the bad environment must change so that children may not grow in that kind of evil, violent and sinful environment. This is a warning for all of us. Do you want your children and grandchildren to be donkeys of men? Then, don’t be rebellious. Do you want your children and grandchildren to be hostile against everyone around them? Then, don’t live a sinful life. Do you want your children and grandchildren to be so cute, obedient, and be leaders of the society? Then, be obedient; be faithful to God; be submissive, and your children will learn from you how to live their life.

 

Look at verses 13 and 14. Let’s read these verses together:  

 

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

 

She experienced God personally and she could see what kind of a person God was. Till then, she thought of God as the God of her masters, too great for her to relate to; but now she was amazed to see that God was concerned about her! God sees me! Her eyes were opened to God’s tender love for her. So she gave this name to God, “You are the God who sees me.” “Attah El Roiy.” And her testimony was, “I have seen the one who sees me.” God was no longer far away; now she would believe in God and worship God. This is actually our testimony too. We thought God was far away, only for great people like Billy Graham to have relationship with Him. We thought that lowly people like us should just come to the church and sit there as an obligation. We never thought about having real relationship with God. But God saw us. God came to help us. As a result, we came into the real fellowship with God, spending time with him in prayer, wrestling with him through his words, and working together for his kingdom purpose as his business partners. God saw us and revealed Himself to us! That’s amazing. Sometimes we take it for granted, but it’s a really big thing. God heard your misery; God saw you. That’s how you have this new life with Him. Give this name to God, saying, “You are the God who sees me.” “Attah El Roiy.” Let’s remember this grace of God. Let’s give thanks to Him and struggle to please Him. God sees us.

 

Now she would return home. Usually, fleeing from the house and then, coming back home on her own would be humiliating; many people, in this kind of situation, refuse to go back home only because they are too ashamed. But once she experienced God's love personally, nothing was the matter. She was healed of her wounds and scars, and thereby, she had enough room and strength in her heart to swallow any sense of humiliation. Also, now being content with God's love, she had no reason to fight with her mistress. So, she returned to Abram’s house and submitted herself to Sarai. She gave birth to a son, and Abram named him, “Ishmael.” Abram was eighty-six years old.

 

Here, we see how one person is healed and becomes sound by experiencing God’s love personally. When we check out the two expressions, “You are the God who sees me,” and “I have seen the one who sees me,” we can notice that the emphasis is on “sees me.” God sees me! That was really a big thing to Hagar, an eye-opening moment. Before, she was not sound at all; she even could not appreciate such great favor from her mistress that she chose her to be her husband’s wife, to be on the same level with her; instead, she paid evil for good, by despising her, causing such turmoil in the family. She was not sound, and she had no room even to appreciate such great favor. Instead, when she had something valuable such as bearing Abram’s child, she was completely puffed up, saying and doing things really unreasonable. She had no real content in her, no real substance. At that time, she was a trouble both when she was not shown favor, and when she was shown favor – without favor, she would live as an empty person without content in herself, and with favor, she would be proud and evil, causing everyone around her to suffer. We can call this, “the Hagar syndrome.” So many people suffer from this “Hagar syndrome,” feeling miserable without favor, and being miserable with favor as well. Think about someone who is given really slight authority, becoming authoritative, and behaving arrogantly. During school, very humble-looking, but after getting a good job, suddenly being proud in words and actions, instead of being thankful and praising. I saw one person changing his attitude completely because his business goes successfully and he makes some money. I was shocked, and still have difficulty to understand his mindset. But when we think about this a little more deeply, we can see that fundamentally, we all have this problem, even if its severity may vary. Just with slight authority of becoming Fellowship leader, we sometimes try to reveal ourselves, using somewhat low Baritone voice, saying, “God bless you.” That’s why the Bible shows that ingratitude is one of the two fundamental sin problems of mankind. Fundamentally, this matter comes because our heart is not really occupied yet; that’s why our hearts are swayed away very easily by anything that looks good. Hagar was healed of this matter when she met God personally and experienced God’s love for her. She became thankful; she appreciated God’s love for her! Then, she could see things with God in mind, and there were so many things she could be thankful for. She could thank Sarai; she could thank Abram; she could thank everyone. That’s what happened to her when she met God personally, because God came to occupy her heart. Today, do you have the Hagar syndrome? Do you want to be healed? Have God in your heart! Give thanks to God for his love for you, and you will see things differently. You will be a source of thanks and encouragement to many people.

 

One Word:              You Are The God Who Sees Me

 

 

 

 

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