Posts Tagged ‘Isaac’

Genesis 26:1-17 – LIAR LIAR!

Liar! Liar!

I will always remember him. He lay in a bed seat, slightly twisted and looking at me with one eye half open. I was finishing a small Bible study devotional with a group of aged people. With a croaky voice filled with the bile of his past and exposed by his dementia he shouted “He’s a fraud! He’s a fraud! Don’t listen to him! Don’t listen to him! He only wants your money! He’s a fraud!” It was disconcerting to say the least.

The Bible says that it is the devil who is a LIAR and a FRAUD! John 8:44 (NLT) “…He has always HATED THE TRUTH, because there is NO TRUTH IN HIM. When he LIES, it is consistent with his character; for he is a LIAR AND THE FATHER OF LIES.”

REBEKAH WAS BEAUTIFUL. Rebekah had been married for many years to Isaac but she could still turn the heads of men wherever she went. I am sure she wasn’t trying to do this, but she was the Audrey Hepburn of the ancient world (What do you mean you don’t remember Audrey Hepburn? How about Sophia Loren? OK, Catherine Zeta-Jones or some other aging movie star?)

I don’t know what it was about the Philistines, but Isaac didn’t trust them. He thought they would try to kill him just because he had a beautiful wife. Where did that thought come from? Even if I go through a bad part of town, I don’t expect to die just because my wife is beautiful. This passage has never made any sense to me. Isaac’s life in Genesis 26 is looking like a B grade RE-RUN of an old movie from Genesis 12:13 and Genesis 20:2.

Anyway, he passes Rebekah off as his SISTER. How this protects Isaac, I don’t know! It certainly puts Rebekah in danger. What kind of a husband does this? What is he trying to do? How is a brother any safer than a husband? And how did Rebekah feel about all this? She is the one most in danger!

You know the story. Abimelech sees Isaac caressing Rebekah and he confronts them. I like Abimelech. He has more character here than Isaac. He gives orders to his men not to touch Rebekah or Isaac (Genesis 26:8). Abimelech is more willing to protect Rebekah than Isaac. Is Isaac some kind of wimp who has to have a Philistine fight to protect his wife? Abimelech is more aware of sexual sin. He doesn’t want the guilt to rest on his men should they try to sleep with Rebekah because of Isaac’s deception. Where did he get such a healthy respect for God and being judged for sin? If he lived today would he have still had such a conscience? HE LOOKS MORE LIKE THE BELIEVER THAN ISAAC!

Well done Abimelech! At least he has some form of integrity which is more than I can say for Isaac. Isaac JUSTIFIES HIS LIE to Abimelech because he thought his life would be endangered by telling people he is married to this beautiful woman. Why do we think that we need to LIE in order for God to keep us safe? I mean, do we really think that God needs me to SIN in order for Him to help us? Der!

Isaac shows me that I can move to a different part of the country and still find myself in the same place spiritually. I can get a little older and still be just as immature. Maturity has nothing to do with aging. Believe me, I know. ROUND AND AROUND. The sins of the father.

God wants me to love my wife and respect her enough to protect her and our marriage. That alone will provide a great example for others, and apart from anything else my wife is worth risking death for. How would I respond in a situation like this? I’d like to think that I would come out of it with my WITNESS and my MARRIAGE intact, but I know that anyone is capable of falling. Lord, protect my marriage and my witness for both our sakes.

The false accusations of an old man crying out “You’re a fraud!” hurt me but they also made me realize that I need to stay close to Christ who is the Truth and to His Word, the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:12 in the Message version says “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” Galatians 6:7 says “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always REAP WHAT YOU SOW.”

Jesus said “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life…” (John 14:6). He is my Truth. He enables me to live a life of INTEGRITY. With Christ in my life I am able to live how God intends me to live and be GENUINE before Him and others and even myself, WITHOUT HYPROCRISY. Nothing fraudulent about that!

Lord, KEEP ME FROM EVIL so that I don’t bring disrepute to You or others or to myself. Let me live righteously before you today and in the joy of my salvation. Let me be a blessing to others today and live a life without hypocrisy.

God bless you as He replaces the habits of a lifetime with the habits of Holy living and the harvest of a fruitful life in Christ. In Him, you are not a FRAUD but a FORGIVEN, FAULTLESS, FAITH-FILLED FRIEND OF GOD, through Christ who strengthens you.

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 26 – REMAKE OF BACK TO THE FUTURE

Remake of Back to the Future

“BACK TO THE FUTURE”, for those who weren’t around in 1985, is an American SCIENCE-FICTION ADVENTURE FILM, starring Michael J. Fox. It could easily be a re-make of Genesis 26.

MARTY MCFLY is sent back in time from 1985 to 1955 in a DeLorean and its plutonium powered FLUX CAPACITOR. Back in 1955 he meets his future-parents in high school. Then the UNTHINKABLE HAPPENS. He accidentally attracts his future MOTHER, LORRAINE, romantically. Gross.

Marty has to repair the damage to history by getting his parents to fall in love, otherwise he won’t have a FUTURE. He has a photo of the family in his pocket and his image is fading.

Marty’s future father is George. GEORGE, as a teenager, is afraid of a bully called BIFF, and Biff starts to pick on George and Lorraine. For once in his life George STANDS UP TO BIFF and with ONE PUNCH knocks him out. LORRAINE, Marty’s future Mother, is smitten with George and they kiss on a 1950’s dance floor. Eventually they will marry and this assures Marty of his existence in the future.

Now all Marty has to do is to get home to the future. With the help of scientist DR. EMMETT BROWN (“Doc”), who harnesses a LIGHTNING BOLT to power the DeLorean’s flux capacitor, Marty finds his way back to his future.

I want a PLUTONIUM POWERED FLUX CAPACITOR for my Mitsubishi Lancer! I want to be able to go back into the past and correct all the mistakes I have made. If I can’t have that then spare me from repeating the same mistakes that my parents have made, so that my past doesn’t keep becoming my future. Isaac has a similar problem in Genesis 26.

Isaac’s father, ABRAHAM (Abram then), was afraid of a man called ABIMELECH (Biff?). Abraham has a BEAUTIFUL WIFE called Sarah (Sarai).

He doesn’t want Abimelech to get JEALOUS and attract attention, so he tells Abimelech that Sarah is his sister. BUT THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENS! He attracts the UNWANTED ATTENTION of Abimelech anyway! Abimelech takes Sarah into his harem with the intention of sleeping with her. Somebody has to REPAIR THE DAMAGE otherwise Isaac won’t have a future. He won’t be part of Abraham’s family.

Fortunately God intervenes (who needs a plutonium powered flux capacitor to protect the future when you have God on your side) and a curse is placed on Abimelech until he returns Sarah to Abraham. THUS ISAAC’S FUTURE IS ASSURED.

Now the interesting thing is that many years later Isaac, Abraham’s son, makes the SAME MISTAKE as his father. Isaac travels to a place called Gerar and meets a man called Abimelech also. Dejar vu! Like his father, Isaac is afraid that Abimelech will be jealous of his beautiful wife and try to kill him, so he tells people that Rebekah is his sister and not his wife. He is REPEATING HISTORY. The question is “Will he DESTROY HIS FUTURE by his lie?” He has put his whole future at risk because he is not willing to trust in God.

Fortunately Abimelech sees Isaac caressing Rebekah and confronts Isaac with the lie. Abimelech is more concerned about the truth than Isaac is, and orders his men not to touch them.

What is the future that God has planned for Isaac? In Genesis 26:3-4 (NLT) God says “Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

God keeps His PROMISES made to Isaac. In the future, CHRIST would intervene in history as a descendent of Isaac, and would bless the nations of the earth as promised and REPAIR ALL THE DAMAGE that was done in the past. No need for a DeLorean to go back in time and fix my mistakes and sins. All we need to do is to TRUST IN CHRIST and what he has done for us when He died for our sins. Not a bad deal, but it requires FAITH (Romans 4:13).

What is the future that God has planned for YOU? The invitation is to stop repeating your past or living in regret. Only Christ can deal once and for all with my past mistakes so that they do not become a part of my future. Divinely generated FAITH, like an lightning bolt, helps me find my way BACK TO THE FUTURE God intended for me before the PHOTO FADES.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 26:1 – GOD RIDES A MOUNTAIN BIKE

Rachel's Bicycle

She has no money or likelihood of obtaining the $500 needed for its purchase, but my daughter Rachel sees a beautiful green bicycle with a basket advertised and decides that it is hers. She continues to believe that God will provide as she prays for her bike even though seemingly there is no way ahead. Psalms 37:4-5 (NLT) says “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.” It’s not unusual then when Rachel’s husband Joel informs her that money that had been promised to them has unexpectedly been forwarded to him, more than enough. He purchases the bike, the basket, and everything she needs to ride her new green bike. Very cool.

In Genesis 26:1 Isaac and Rebekah are experiencing a time of “Not enough”. “A severe FAMINE now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time.” Why does the Lord allow FAMINE in a land where He said He would BLESS Abraham? Doesn’t seem to be right. Isaac is very wealthy. Not much good having wealth if he goes bankrupt because of a famine.

Isaac moves to Gerar. This is still in the promised land. Why did he go to Gerar on the coast, where the Philistines live? More water? Trade? But LESS SAFE. Later the Philistines are enemies. Isaac has a large retinue of people trailing after him and he is responsible to protect and feed them. Why go there in the middle of danger?

During this famine time the Lord appears. We are not told exactly how He shows up but obviously Isaac was intending to go to Egypt like Abraham had done during a similar time of famine, and the Lord specifically tells him not to go. He doesn’t want him there. Why? Was it because people in Egypt served other gods? Was it because it would mean Isaac would have to leave the promised land? Later a descendent of Isaac called Joseph would go to Egypt, but not by choice. Why does God so often want me to stay where He has put me rather than quit?

What interests me is that we are NOT necessarily protected from the “FAMINE” times. Don’t misunderstand me. What I am saying is that God can bless us even in times of extreme need, when the finances aren’t there, when the river runs dry, when there seems no way ahead. In fact God seems to speak the LOUDEST in the midst of the famine and testing times. Unfortunately when all I see is famine, potential loss and difficult circumstances then my spiritual hearing is affected and I can easily miss the powerful voice of God’s authority.

God gives Isaac the OPPORTUNITY TO OBEY Him during a tough time and to stay within the sphere of His PROMISES. The land He promises is the land that sustains them. What God promises in His Word will always sustain my life no matter what I am going through. I don’t need to look elsewhere just because it gets tough.

I am reminded that Psalms 23:5 (NLT) says that the Lord prepares “a feast for me in the presence of my enemies”. He promises to provide for me even when all I can see is potential trouble. That means that when God calls me to a ministry, and things get a little tough, then I won’t simply get off my bike and resign because it isn’t working for me. I will trust in God to help me work things through.

In Genesis 26:3 God tells Isaac to “Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father.”

This famine is a TEST OF TRUST for Isaac as it was with Abraham. Same test, different member of the family. The question – “Will I trust the Lord to provide?” Will I face such a test? Even Jesus faced a desert experience with no food and extreme temptation to take the easy way out.

As a follower of Christ I am a CITIZEN of heaven but I walk as a FOREIGNER in this world. God’s intention is that He will be with me and BLESS me. He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). The invitation is to TRUST Him during the difficult times I am facing.

Do my desires for my life reflect His! When the going gets tough am I staying within the boundaries of His promises and trusting Him to provide and bless.

You have no money? What colour is that bike again? When even my wants are in line with the desires of the One who has authority in my life, then God will provide for me, and His presence will RIDE WITH ME! Only I’m sure that He would want me to ride a mountain bike. Lord?

Pastor Ross

Genesis 25:21-23 – CAN OF WORMS!

Can of Worms

Some of the questions addressed in the TV show called “CAN OF WORMS” are “Is porn a normal, healthy part of adult life?” 52% of Austalians said “No!” “Is marriage necessary anymore?” 78% of Australians said “Yes!” and 68% said that gay people also have a right to marry.

Three guests, a studio audience and people from all over the world find out what Australia really thinks, especially controversial subjects such as political correctness and personal values. “Do Australians swear too much? Is the burqa out of place in Australia? Is it OK to spy on your kids online?” Each question is designed to open up a CAN OF WORMS. No absolute values. No right or wrong answers.

To open a can of worms means “to inadvertently create a host of new problems while trying to solve one.” The idea is that once you open a can of worms it is impossible to stop them from trying to escape.

Way back in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve sinned they OPENED A CAN OF WORMS. Their actions released a host of IRREVERSIBLE PROBLEMS and COMPLICATIONS into the world that only God could resolve. As long as the “can” remained sealed through obedience to God, there was no harm, but once it was opened it set off a chain reaction of events with totally unexpected and complex consequences that irrevocably changed our world. It’s called SIN.

For 20 years Isaac and Rebekah have prayed for children and the Lord answers their prayers (Genesis 25:21). But in a sinful world, it seems that prayer always stirs things up spiritually.

Rebekah has an abnormally tough pregnancy. She prays “Why is this happening to me?” The Lord answers Rebekah directly somehow. Does she get a prophetic word from an angel? Does her answer come through a dream or a sign? Does God show up personally like He did with Abraham? Here is where I would like to know the details, but somehow God is more interested in telling me WHAT He said rather than HOW He said it. Is it just me that gets so interested in the MIRACULOUS that I miss the MESSAGE? Lord, help me focus on what is RELEVANT, not just on what is REMARKABLE.

The Lord tells her she is having twins, but reveals to her some rather unexpected twists that will take place in their lives. Something spiritually will be stirred up by the birth of these sons. The trouble Rebekah is experiencing is used as a picture of things to come.

“They will be RIVALS! One will be STRONGER! The older will SERVE THE YOUNGER!” (Genesis 25:23). This is all upside down and inside out and it only COMPLICATES things! It’s not POLITICALLY CORRECT! It messes with the CULTURE of the time. For this to happen the inheritance and blessing from Isaac will have to come to the youngest son and not the oldest. This is NOT DONE! When God answers prayer in a sinful world it can stir up a CAN OF WORMS.

Does Rebekah mention this Word from the Lord to Isaac? Is she going to try to manipulate things to help God along with this promise?

Will I try to adjust the plans of God in my life? Prayer releases the promises of God, but am I really willing for God to answer the deepest prayers of my life when I don’t know WHERE IT WILL LEAD? Who knows what could happen? UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES that only He can foresee, IRREVOCABLE PROBLEMS and COMPLICATIONS that only He can resolve? A MINE FIELD to navigate where only He can lead?

Just because God answers my prayers doesn’t mean I won’t experience difficulties or that I won’t feel out of my depth. Everytime I pray, something in the spiritual atmosphere of this world is STIRRED UP as God intervenes to deal with the CAN OF WORMS created by our sin.

The believing line of descendents from Abraham carry the promises of the Covenant. The Messiah Jesus will come from this line, and in fulfilling this promise the world will be IRREVOCABLY CHANGED. A battle begins, and is waged in the hearts of men and women to this very day.

Romans 8:28 (NLT) assures me “that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” When prayer stirs up a can of worms, I am unable to deal with it, BUT GOD CAN. He can sort out the mess.

Somehow only the Lord Jesus Christ can deal with the consequences of my sin, no matter how complicated, twisted and out of control things have become. It may mean He does things a little differently to our expectations and it may cut across our cultural norms and look totally upside down to us, but He knows what He is doing. He is the only WAY, TRUTH AND LIFE (John 14:6). The invitation is always to TRUST in Him.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – THE PERFECT WIFE OR A DOMESTICATED DOORMAT? – Part 6

Perfect Wife or Doormat?

The Formula in the 50′s FOR THE PERFECT WIFE get your work done, have dinner ready for your husband, look good for him, minimize any noise before he arrives at the door after work, be happy to see him, don’t greet him with problems and complaints, don’t complain if he is late for dinner, make him comfortable, listen to him and make the evening his (Was this designed by the PERFECT WIFE OR A DOMESTICATED DOORMAT?)

Now picture this scene found in Genesis 24. Abraham sends his servant with 10 camels and a sizable fortune in gifts to find THE PERFECT WIFE for Isaac. He asks God for a SIGN so he’ll recognise who is the right girl. The sign? The girl who not only gives him water to drink from her jug but also offers to water his 10 camels will be the one. Rebekah makes such an offer. This is like having someone offer to fill up 10 EMPTY TRUCKS with petrol. It’s going to take a long time. But so far so good. She seems like the perfect wife for Isaac (not to mention that it will save him watering the camels).

He discovers a number of things about Rebekah at the well that day. She is BEAUTIFUL, SINGLE. She is CONFIDENT, WARM AND FRIENDLY despite the fact that he is a stranger. She calls him “lord” which was a way of showing RESPECT. She has a SERVANT HEART. She’s THOUGHTFUL, CARING, CONSIDERATE, SELFLESS, willing to go the EXTRA MILE to help out. She puts the needs of others before her own. She’s a FITNESS FANATIC (Carting all that water would keep anyone fit). She’s STRONG AND HEALTHY. She is definitely NOT AFRAID OF HARD WORK. She’s FLEXIBLE with her time. She is there to get water for her family but she goes out of her way to help someone else first.

Apart from this she has FAITH IN GOD and she is HOSPITABLE. She invites him to stay with her family

Genesis 24:26-28 (NLT) says that the servant “…bowed low and worshiped the Lord.” As far as he is concerned, God has answered his prayer. He gives her some EXPENSIVE JEWELLERY including a nose ring and Rebekah runs home “… to tell her family everything that had happened.”

What would you do if your DAUGHTER COMES HOME LATE, wearing expensive jewelry and raving on about a man she has just met that evening? I’d be a little suspicious if it was my daughter and I’d want to get rid of the man. Not Rebekah’s brother Laban. He’s the head of the family but he is also a business man so when he SEES THE JEWELLERY that Rebekah is wearing all of a sudden this servant becomes HIS BEST FRIEND. In Genesis 24:31 he says “Come in, blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside since I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels?”

Just before the evening meal the Servant explains how he asked God for a sign and that he thinks that Rebekah is God’s choice for Isaac. He lays it on the line “Please tell me yes or no, and then I’ll know what to do next.” (I knew a girl once who said she knew that it was God’s will that she marry a friend of mine. Strangely, God didn’t tell him too and he ended up marrying another girl). Is this man being EMOTIONALLY MANIPULATIVE or has he really heard from God?

Laban and his father Bethuel believe in God and when they hear of how the servant received a sign from God, they say, “The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say. Here is Rebekah; take her and go. Yes, let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”

The servant lavishes the family with a FORTUNE IN GIFTS. What is this? Human trafficking, SELLING YOUR DAUGHTER? Rebekah hasn’t had a say in any of this yet! What is she? Some KIND OF DOORMAT OR OBJECT OF EXCHANGE?

By early the next morning, it looks like the deal has changed however. Laban has been talking to Rebekah’s mother and they say “We want Rebekah to stay with us at LEAST TEN DAYS, then she can go.” Abraham’s servant is straight with them. He says “Don’t mess me around. This is God’s will and we’ve made a deal.” Actually he says “Don’t delay me. The Lord has made my mission successful.”

“Well,” they say “we’ll call Rebekah and ASK HER what she thinks.” IT’S ABOUT TIME that Rebekah actually gets to say something about their plans for her life! Ever felt like God loves you and EVERYONE ELSE has a wonderful plan for your life? So they call Rebekah. Oh, by the way Rebekah, “Are you willing to go with this man?” they ask her.

Rebekah is no doormat. She’s INTELLIGENT enough to make up her OWN MIND. She’s heard everything the servant said and she is ASSERTIVE AND DECISIVE. She makes a decision immediately based on what she has heard. What would you have said? She replies, “Yes, I will go.” She is quick to recognise that God is in this and that this is her opportunity to fulfill her GOD GIVEN DESTINY. She doesn’t insist on staying an extra 10 days like her family requests. Just as well! Major spanner in the works if she had said “NO. I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE AND I’M NOT MARRYING ANYONE!”

Sometimes people say that CHRISTIANS ARE JUST PASSIVE DOORMATS who follow GOD’S RULES AND REGULATIONS MINDLESSLY. I don’t follow Christ because I HAVE TO. I follow Him because I WANT TO. He has won me over with who He is and what He has done for me on the Cross. There’s a difference between CO-OPERATING WITH GOD and being a DOORMAT. I have a CHOICE.

Rebekah is a RISK TAKER. Faith is always a risk. GIVING YOUR LIFE TO CHRIST is always a risk. Some people say “FAITH IS BLIND because it involves taking a risk. FAITH MAY BE BLIND BUT IT ISN’T DEAF! Faith comes when we HEAR what God has to say for our lives and then we CHOOSE, by an act of our own FREEWILL, after receiving His revelation of Truth, to step out and act upon it without knowing what the future holds. Rebekah courageously takes a step of faith by her willingness to give up her life with her family and go with this man to a land she has never seen, to marry a man she has never met. I like this woman of faith. It is no wonder that Isaac falls in love with her.

Although everyone else seemed to have a plan for her life, Rebekah listens and responds to what God is saying to her and makes a decision that changes the world. She doesn’t know it but this decision will impact the future as God fulfils His promises. One day Jesus will come from the line of Isaac.

Rebekah encourages me NOT TO BE A DOORMAT to my circumstances or to other people. God bless you as you COOPERATE WITH GOD’S PLAN for your life today and in doing so LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL and make a difference in the world.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – THINGS THAT DON’T GO TOGETHER – Part 3

Just Married!

The engine of a Fiesta in a Ferrari! Pickles and icecream. There are certain things that definitely DON’T go together. Aluminium foil and microwaves (Julie rediscovered this recently). Children and cancer. Wouldn’t it change the world if honesty and politics went together.

It was dark when I dressed and when I arrived at the Church building we sat around in a small circle of dedicated students learning and reciting Greek declensions with our Pastor. It was about halfway through one of these early morning classes that I noticed my shoes. I was wearing TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF SHOES! Very embarrassing. I wonder if anybody else noticed? Certain things should not be worn together.

Deuteronomy 22:10 (NLT) says “You must not plough with an ox and a donkey harnessed together.” The idea here is that there are certain things that are totally INCOMPATIBLE. They were never meant to be placed in the same yoke, never meant to be together in the same equation. Just won’t fit! Won’t make sense! Doesn’t work well!

Abraham wants his son to marry a woman from among his own relatives and insists that he must not marry a Canaanite girl. It almost seems RACIST! Wouldn’t it be better to form an alliance through marriage with the people who are there in the land promised to Abraham? What an easy way of claiming the promised land. You would think that it would HELP THE PROMISE along a little. So far Abraham only owns a burial plot that he bought for Sarah. Why not also form a covenant through a marriage to a Canaanite girl with his son? It was clear that he DOES NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN. Why? Are we to be DISCRIMINATORY when we choose a marriage partner? No, but we are to be DISCRIMINATING.

The Bible speaks of our relationship with God as being the most important relationship we will ever have, even more important than our marriage relationship. When we marry we form a COVENANT. That covenant is used as a picture of our relationship with God. Ephesians 5:25 (NASB) says “Husbands, love your wives, just AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH and gave Himself up for her,…”   The Canaanites were idol worshipers and REJECTED THE GOD OF ABRAHAM.

There are certain things that DEFINITELY DON’T GO TOGETHER. Ur and Abraham. Sodom and Lot. Idols and the temple. Christ and the devil. Light and darkness. Righteousness and wickedness. A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST MARRYING AN UNBELIEVER. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NLT) says “DON’T TEAM UP WITH (be UNEQUALLY YOKED with) those who are unbelievers.” It’s like harnessing an ox and an ass together.

Abraham is confident that the Lord will send an ANGEL ahead of the servant to help him find the right girl for Isaac among his relatives. Angels have already played an important part in Abraham’s life (Genesis 18, 19, 22). By the way, he is not talking about A CUPID-LIKE ANGEL, so let’s not go there. It was probably Gabriel or Michael, the fiercest of all angels, sent to protect the promises of God to Abraham.

A GREAT NATION was coming through Abraham. JESUS would one day be born through this family line and it seems God didn’t want anybody or anything, demonic or otherwise, to interfere with the process of finding Rebekah. Abraham’s faith had been tested and he had learned some valuable lessons. He is doing everything he can to make sure that he doesn’t get in the way of God again.

Perhaps it was the archangel Gabriel who was sent. Afterall Gabriel turns up at the birth of Christ to Mary (Luke 1:26) and angels throughout the Bible have a way of protecting people (and I might add of scaring them to death in the process. It seems they always have to reassure people by saying “Do not fear!” so they obviously aren’t the cute, fat baby-like cupid angels that we see on wedding invitations).

In a world where Satan wants to destroy Godly marriages because they are a picture of our relationship with Christ, is this your opportunity to pray that God would SEND AN ANGEL to protect you and that God would lead you to the right person to marry? Some people are just meant to be together.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – GOD HAS AN ONLINE DATING SERVICE! – Part 2

Online Love

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…”

The most successful INTERNET DATING SITES today, according to Wikipedia, are very specific concerning those they target. To ensure compatibility many of them are advertised according to RACIAL OR RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS. That would have suited Abraham if he had been able to access the internet. Many today would accuse him of being a racist because he did not want his son to marry a Canaanite.

Abraham sent his trusted servant out to find a perfect match for his son Isaac, but he was instructed to go to Abraham’s relatives. He didn’t want a marriage where race or faith in God would be compromised.

Today the servant could have linked into JDate (which is for Jewish singles) while avoiding the local dating sites such as CanaaniteDate.com.

How do you find a person who is COMPATIBLE? Today he could have surveyed Isaac and entered the data online to find the characteristics in a woman he wanted, such as age, gender, what city she was from, height, weight, education, income, sense of humour, her interest in sports, her political persuasion and medical condition. What if she has mental problems or severe disabilities? To go one step further, Abraham’s servant could have linked into a site that used a personality test to ensure compatibility.

It all sounds like a great way to go if you are looking for a marriage partner, but Rebekah takes a huge risk in following this servant of Abraham. She has no idea whether or not she is exposing herself to ruthless predators, only to find herself a victim of fraud or of being stalked or of sexual exploitation and violence. For all she knows she could end up as a victim of human trafficking!

If Rebekah lived today she could have asked for a police check on Abraham’s family. It would have revealed a few cautions against Abraham – abandonment of his son Ishmael and attempted murder of Isaac. God acquitted him as righteous but how would you feel about having a father-in-law like that?

At least two couples I know began their relationship on the internet. Recently Sharyn Cook said “I met my husband on the internet and he is definitely God’s answer to my prayers”.

The question the servant had to ask was “How do I find someone who will be compatible?” He decided to use GOD’S ONLINE HELP, the best and most successful dating site of all, accessed by the same password Sharyn used – “PRAYER”.

So the oldest and most trusted of servants goes to find a girl willing to go with him, leave her family, come to a totally new land called Canaan, marry and live with a man she has never seen before in her life. This is a big ask. No wonder the servant prays in Genesis 24:12 (NLT), “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham.” This servant obviously has a RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD although I think he could have included a desire for a bit of lovingkindness for Isaac too. Afterall, he is the one who is going to be affected the most by this prayer. Prayer voice activates his faith and links him directly to GOD’S INTERNET DATING SITE.

God knows what He is doing as he leads the servant to Rebekah. Imagine if Rebekah was so off-line with God that she had not agreed to come. Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ was to come through the line of Isaac. Her positive response, however, shows that she is a right person for Isaac.

Should this servant give us advice as to finding someone who is compatible for marriage, he would say “Dedicate yourself to the purpose but let that purpose be guided by your prayer.” How different might be the results should this kind of online search be conducted today. Connected to God’s wisdom, our choices make so much more sense and have so much greater impact and fruitfulness. The invitation today is to be connected to God in every arena of our lives, especially in the decision of a life partner in marriage.

Pastor Ross

Part 5 – Genesis 22:1-19 – CHRISTMAS SUBSTITUTES!

Christmas Substitute

In the very centre of Christmas cheer, amidst the silver bells, coloured baubles and lights, enormous sparkling chandeliers, banners and wreathes and beside a gigantic Christmas tree, there in the middle of everything stands a huge throne that dominates the centre of the plaza. No, it’s not for Jesus. It is for Santa Claus, enthroned as the CHRISTMAS SUBSTITUTE of a naughty and nice world.

The nativity scene is hard to find, tucked away in a glass case around the corner somewhere. At least in Australia we still have them. It’s not that we don’t want to include Jesus, the Saviour of the world, in the celebrations, it’s just that there is no room in the … well you know what I mean. It seems you still have to search for Jesus, like wise men of old, without the help of the star. So much for Matthew 6:33 (NLT) “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” 

I’m not sure Jesus would go for the big red throne adorned with tinsel and holly anyway. The stable seems to indicate that God is less interested in all the frills and more interested in ruling over the hearts and lives of those willing to love, honour and obey the real King of kings and Lord of lords, people such as Abraham.

In Genesis 22, Isaac is the promised son, whom Abraham loves. It is interesting to me that this is the first time the word “love” is used in the Bible and it is in connection with the love of a father for his son. The New Testament makes it clear that this real life story is also a picture of Christ, the Son of God, whom God loves. In Matthew 3:17 (NLT) God says about Jesus “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.”

You know the story. God stops Abraham from killing his only son at the last minute and provides a SUBSTITUTE SACRIFICE. In Genesis 22:13 it says, “Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering IN PLACE OF his son.” God provides for us even in the most dreadful of circumstances.

Substitution. Isaac is Abrahams only son of the promise. Jesus is God’s only Son, the promised Messiah. The ram SUBSTITUTES for Isaac. The lamb of God, Jesus Christ, SUBSTITUTES for me. Isaac carries the wood. Christ carries the cross. Abraham offers Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Years later, Solomon’s Temple is built on Mt Moriah, where many sacrifices take place. Christ is offered up on the same mountain ridge, once and for all for my sins. Abraham travels three days and received back his son. Christ spends 3 days in the tomb and He is resurrected. Abraham calls Mt. Moriah Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide.” God provides for Abraham. God provides a SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE for me in the Lord Jesus Christ.

God says to Abraham in effect, “Because you have not withheld anything from Me, even the one person you loved the most, then I will not withhold anything from you concerning my purposes.”

Abraham’s submission to God’s will, in an ultimate act of worship, pictures beautifully the SUBSTITUTIONARY WORK of Christ. In Matthew 26:39 (NLT) Jesus says “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Hebrews 5:8 (NLT) says “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned OBEDIENCE from the things He suffered.” 

Abraham’s obedience to God is a direct application of Proverbs 3:5 (NLT) in the most trying of circumstances “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” 1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT) asks, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your OBEDIENCE to His voice? Listen! OBEDIENCE is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

God bless you as you as you abdicate the throne this CHRISTMAS. I object that Santa has become a SUBSTITUTE for Jesus, but on closer inspection behind the beard and the red suit, if you look hard enough you will see me, bowing to culture and the “naughty and nice things” of the world. Sitting on a throne of my own making.

But I choose to abdicate! I choose to take off the mask and look for the manger. Forget the naughty and nice. I just want to be Ho, Ho, Holy! (Sorry, couldn’t resist). I choose His righteousness as a SUBSTITUTE for my sinfulness. I realise that all I have to offer Him is more akin to a stable, not a palace, or some fancy throne, yet here in this place, without all the frills of a Christmas substitute, I choose to recognise Jesus as my King.

Now with that established, let’s have a lot of fun! Have a happy holiday but most of all a Merry CHRISTmas!

Pastor Ross

Part 4 – Genesis 22:1-19 – CHRISTMAS IN THE FIRE!

Living Sacrifice

His weather worn face looked like ancient parchment stretched over a wire mesh skeleton and his eyes, haunted with memories, looked straight through me into my soul. As I gave my devotion that day I could tell that he understood the anguish Abraham must have felt as God said, “Take your son, your only son-yes, Isaac, whom you love so much-and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2 NLT)

I asked him later if he was spending time with his family this Christmas. He pointed to the two drawings above his chair on the wall. Simply framed crayon drawings, pastel colours, a boy and girl. He said simply and in a half whispered voice which only slightly betrayed the emotion he held at bay “My children. Both of them died of cancer.” He had outlived his family and somehow in the aftermath of his loss and grief, I could still see the remnants of faith, tested but still intact and with a depth that only occurs in the fires of experience.

Why would God ask Abraham to do such a gruesome thing and why did Abraham obey right up to the moment that God stops him from carrying this through? Is this a picture of absolute surrender to God or the kind of RELIGIOUS FANATICISM that has no emotions and just obeys with robotic obedience? This passage is graphic and startling in it’s implications for me! There’s no Christmas sleighbells and FEELGOOD music accompanying this scene.

Remarkably, Abraham’s faith is still intact. He still believes the promise of God. It must have seemed like Christmas when God had said, “… for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4 NLT) and that “… All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3 NLT). And Hebrews 11:19 (NLT) says “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again …”

With the noises of the world around me, my problem is hearing God speak in the first place, let alone audibly, but if He said this to me I don’t think I could have done it? I would still be asking, “Lord, is that really You?” I would put it down to an exegesis problem. “You don’t really mean sacrifice. You mean bless, not sacrifice, don’t You, Lord? Lord, what are you thinking?” Where would I draw the line? Would I begin to water down what God is saying rather than come under His authority?

The test this Christmas is to love God and put Him FIRST in my life today. And I’m not talking about gooing and garing over the baby in the manger. The invitation this Christmas is not only to come let us ADORE Him, but also to ask the all important question “Why did He come?” My mind sweeps down through the corridors of time and I see not only a MANGER but a CROSS.

Isaac couldn’t be a sacrifice for my sin! No-one can pay the penalty of my sin but Christ alone, the innocent Lamb of God. Christmas declares that “… He (Jesus) will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21 NLT). The challenge this Christmas is to accept the gift He offers of forgiveness and salvation.

When God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac they must have understood another awesome truth. As they stood by the fire that day Abraham saw Isaac as a LIVING SACRIFICE. Life for both Abraham and Isaac would always be seen through the eyes of that sacrifice. CHRISTMAS IN THE FIRE!

Isaac tells me that I am to life my life as a LIVING SACRIFICE, not willing to allow my circumstances and the things I treasure most to dictate what it means to live under the authority and direction of Jesus Christ. It involves a choice to see life through the eyes of the Cross rather than through the shrunken, distorted lenses of my circumstances and the cultural pressures around me. Dying to the influences of the world and intentionally coming under the authority of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) explains “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a LIVING AND HOLY SACRIFICE-the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Genesis 21:8-13 – THE LAST LAUGH!

What a Waste!

It was a boring job packing books and I remember we would look for ways to have a bit of fun in the warehouse. When people found other work and left the warehouse they were BINNED!

Usually it was TIM who organised a BINNING with everyone, and he would LAUGH THE LOUDEST. We would gang up on the unfortunate victim and lift them into a large industrial rubbish bin and stand around laughing at the shocked look on his face, then just walk away and leave him to climb out. I know it sounds a little cruel but it was all in good fun.

When I announced that I was leaving to Pastor a Church in the Whitsundays, I found out that Tim was planning to BIN me! So I decided to turn the tables on him. I would secretly arrange for Tim to be binned instead. I organised the whole thing with all the guys and planned it meticulously. It would be kind of like COLLECTIVE REVENGE.

I was so excited that day as we snuck up on Tim and I shouted “NOW!” but so totally shocked when they PICKED ME UP INSTEAD and binned me. The laughter and smirk on Tim’s face told me that he GOT THE LAST LAUGH. To this day I can’t work out how he did it.

There was a lot of laughter surrounding the birth of Isaac. Even Ishmael got in on the act with another dimension.

Genesis 21:8-10 (NLT) says that “When … Sarah saw Ishmael-the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar-making fun of her son, Isaac, .. she turned to Abraham and demanded, “GET RID OF that slave-woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!”” All of a sudden Ishmael isn’t smiling anymore. THE LAST LAUGH WAS ON HIM.

The rift between Sarah and Hagar leads to Hagar being DIVORCED by Abraham (Genesis 21:9) and sent away. At first glance this seems so wrong and must have had a profound impact on Ishmael as the last ties to his father were broken. Abraham was as upset as any loving father would be and most likely prayed about the situation which was causing such conflict, but surprisingly in Genesis 21:12 (NLT) “God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” It seems God agrees with Sarah!

Why is God OK with the jealous rage of Sarah in wanting to get rid of Hagar and Ismael? Is Sarah going to get away with this kind of attitude? It seems as if she will. Nowhere are we told that Sarah went to God to pray about this situation.

As the laughter disappeared from Abraham’s face too, God reminds him that Isaac’s descendents are the key part of God’s purposes (Jesus will eventually come from this line). But God tells Abraham “I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.” 

When I am most conflicted, and the devil seems to be having the LAST LAUGH, God’s Word speaks to me and I am reminded that HIS PURPOSES are bigger than MY CIRCUMSTANCES. It may not seem to make sense at the time, but God knows what He is doing. I can trust Him. Abraham has learned this lesson several times already.

Ishmael was Abraham and Sarah’s idea of how to fulfil God’s promise, but when it comes to the crunch, you have to make a decision. The question that Abraham and I must decide on is “Will I respond to my circumstances in such a way that I live by the power of His Spirit or will I rely on my own good works?” I will never gain God’s approval until I am willing to put away my HUMAN EFFORT and trust in Him.

Galatians 4:21-31 uses this story as an illustration. Two Mothers, two sons, two covenants and two ways of living. You can’t live in harmony by trying to live by HUMAN EFFORT and still hope to LIVE BY THE SPIRIT and inherit the promises of God.

God bless you Church when you decide to put away a life based on human effort which will enslave you and you embrace a life of trusting in the promises of God which will release you to live how God intended. When you do, the last laughter of sheer delight that you will hear will be from heaven’s corridors.

Pastor Ross