Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Man Who Laughed at God

Have you ever felt a little impatient? Ever make a rash decision for immediate gains instead of being patient and waiting on God’s timetable? Ever make a bad decision because of your impatience and have to deal with the consequences?  You are not alone!  
One of the biggest heroes in the bible, a man noted for his faithfulness and obedience, suffered from the same impatience and bad decision making that you and I do.  Abraham is referred to as the father of the faith and is a seminal figure in three of the world’s great religions; but he wasn’t perfect. In fact, when left to his own devices, he was a lot like me; pretty messed up.
Image result for abraham bible characterWe first meet Abraham in Genesis Chapter 11 while he is still using  his given name Abram. We see his family tree and learn about him marrying a lovely woman named Sarai.  God called him to leave his homeland and promised him the He would make him a great nation. God led him to his future promised land, and repeated his promise to him. Everything was going so well, until the first time adversity showed up. Even though God had set Abram up with some sweet land and made a pretty awesome promise to him twice, when a famine came over the land, Abram freaked out.
Ok, freaked out, may sound like a harsh term to use, but let’s examine what happened. Due to the famine, Abram took Sarai to Egypt to seek refuge. Because Egypt was not the friendliest of places Abram was afraid for their safety and came up with the genius plan of telling Pharaoh that Sarai was actually his sister not his wife. The Bible describes Sarai as a great beauty and Pharaoh was very interested in making her his bride. He was so interested he gave Abram a huge dowry for her. Abram, out of fear and just not knowing what to do was pretty much going to let Pharaoh have his wife. Fortunately, God intervened and Abram and Sarai were kicked out of Egypt, but somehow he got to keep all the cool things Pharaoh had given him.
So, Instead of trusting God through the famine, Abram thought he knew better. He fled, he lied and he almost lost his wife to Pharaoh.
After this, God reiterated his promise to Abram, promising him lots of land and many heirs. We see through the next couple of chapters the faithfulness Abram became famous for. He builds altars to God, he leads a valiant rescue of his nephew and he gives us a great example of tithing.
Many years pass and while Abram had the land God promised and had accumulated great wealth, he still didn’t have the heirs God had promised him. In Chapter 16 we start to see some of the doubt creep in as Abram questions God’s plan
But Abram answered, “Lord All-Powerful, you have given me everything I could ask for, except children. And when I die, Eliezer of Damascus will get all I own.[a] You have not given me any children, and this servant of mine will inherit everything.”
Much like when we question and get impatient, God calmed Abram and reminded him yet again of his promise to him.  God was still the same and his promise had not changed.
The Lord replied, “No, he won’t! You will have a son of your own, and everything you have will be his.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. That’s how many descendants you will have.” Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord was pleased with him.
Ever get that amazing feeling that everything is going so great, you are just on top of the world. Ol' Abram felt that way for a bit, until doubt and impatience crept in again.  He and Sarai were starting to get up in age, still had no children and decided they would help God along with his promise.  Instead of waiting on God to fulfill the promise he had now give to Abram 3 times, he and Sarai decided to fix this heirless issue with their own little plan.
Sarai had Abram procreate with one of her servants, Hagar. What could possibly go wrong with this idea? In a not so surprising turn of events after Hagar became pregnant with Abram’s son Sarai became jealous and things were not smooth and happy. Kinda saw that coming, huh?
So, again Abram got impatient, and didn’t wait on God. Again, it didn’t turn out well for him.
Abram was 99 years old, still only had the one child, with Hagar, when God showed up again to remind him of their covenant. This time though, God seemed to want Abram to remember the promise so He threw in a couple of little reminders. God changed his name from Abram to Abraham and instituted the covenant of circumcision.  God gave instructions going forward as to who was to be circumcised and when, but also made Abraham, his son Ishmael, and all of his servants get circumcised immediately.  A tip of the cap to Abraham as the bible records he obeyed God that same day.
On a side note, who had that job? Who had the fun job of removing foreskin from grown men with their pocket knife? I also imagine there were not a lot of people clamoring to be at the front of the line. Also, who had the job of going around and checking to make sure everyone obeyed? But I digress.
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I 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 peoples will come from her.”
17 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?”
Whoa! Did you catch that, Abraham just laughed at God?
Let’s not be too hard on ol’ Abraham though, God had been making this promise now for decades and he and Sarah still had no kids.  It must have been laughter of not just amusement, but frustration.  “C’mon God, you have been telling me that for 50 years now!”
Like Abraham, I have laughed at God. For a number of years I felt like he was calling me to do something and I never felt worthy. I also never felt like he was fully revealing how he wanted to use me; only that he wanted to use me. "Ha, good one God, you are going to use me, that’s funny!" I still am not sure how He plans to use me, but I am know he will and I can hardly wait.
So, now our father of the faith has had his name changed and foreskin removed and God confirmed and specified his promise yet again. Maybe this time it will sink in?
We do see Abraham’s passion for God and his passion for others as he intercedes and pleads for the lives of those in Sodom.  But then we also see Abraham returning to one of his old mistakes. For whatever reason after Sodom was destroyed Abraham picked up and moved to a new territory. This territory was ruled by a guy named Abimelech. Despite how poorly it almost turned out the last time he tried this stunt, Abraham told Abimelech Sarah was his sister and almost lost her again before God intervened yet again.
God took care of Abraham, despite his lying, despite his lapses of judgment, despite impatience.
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.
We get impatient, we get frustrated, we doubt, we may even laugh at God, but He is faithful to complete what He has promised.  God didn’t choose Abraham because he was worthy. God didn’t give up on Abraham when he failed. God made Abraham worthy and stood by him despite his flaws and He will do the same for us.
On one last side note….  When God changed his name all he added was Ha. So when Abraham laughed at God; God had the last laugh?

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