When the Compass is “Off”

Have you ever been lost? I remember a time that I was scouting a new area I wanted to hunt.  It was a beautiful forest. I had planned on only being there a short time so I didn’t bring anything with me except my binoculars.

As I walked through the woods looking for the best place to set up my deer stand, time got away from me. As the sun was setting, I exited the woods, and to my shock, I was completely lost and nowhere near where my car was located.  In fact, I was not sure where I was. I guessed that I was  2-3 miles from my car which I thought now was on the other side of the woods. Darkness was also upon me. I had no flashlight or compass, and I was not certain what direction I needed to go.  I began running back through the woods to try to get through as much of the dense timber as I could before it became completely dark. Once darkness engulfed me, I continued through the thicket slowly fumbling through the woods. When I finally came out of the forest, I was very thankful that I could see my car!

What was my problem? My inner compass was “off.” I thought I knew where I was and the best way to get to my destination, but I was terribly wrong. This memory came to mind as I read Gen. 19. This passage describes the tragic story of Lot and his efforts to protect the two angels who had come to Sodom. He was willing to give the mob (consisting of all the men of the town), his two virgin daughters so that they would not pursue their homosexual desires with the angels. What a corrupt city and foolish dad!

The story is sickening, but how could Lot be willing to give up his two daughters to protect the angels? The only explanation is that his moral compass was “off.” As K. A. Mathews notes,

“That Lot sanctions the rape of his daughters indicates a moral compass gone awry; he places hospitality above the protection of his own children.”

Our society’s moral compass has also gone awry. Sinful behavior is parading before us on the news, in the movies, and in many other ways.  Many who are living life by their inner moral compass pursue a selfish and sinful agenda because they no longer have accurate bearings. They no longer see God and His will as true North. The result is that our culture is on a fast downward moral spiral.

Father, I thank you that you do not change. I thank you that you and your will always functions as our moral compass. From your Word, we can determine how you want us to live. If our personal agendas are in conflict with your clearly communicated will as we find it in scripture, then our compass is “off.” Help us to consistently seek you and your will and guide us by your moral compass.

Following Jesus with you,

Stunning News!

All of us have probably had news that caught us off guard. News that may have changed our lives very unexpectedly. In Genesis 17, Abraham had been living with his son Ishmael for 13 years with the clear thought that Ishmael was going to be the heir of the Promise that God had made. That was not God’s plan, and it is here that God shares some fantastic news with Abraham that changes everything.

God again appears to Abraham in this passage and renews his Promise to make him the father of a multitude of nations, and through his seed, the promised Messiah would come. It is also in this passage that God makes clear that Ishmael is not the son through whom the Promise of God will be fulfilled. The Promise is going to go through the son of Sarah. Hearing the reaffirmation of God’s covenant, Abraham still does not understand and thinks God is talking to Ishmael. Notice what he says in Gen. 17:18-19,

“And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name hIsaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.’”

God also responds to Abraham, and his desire for the blessing of Ishmael by saying,

“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.” (Gen. 17:20-21)

Ishmael, as one of the sons of Abraham, would experience blessing. He too would become a great nation, but it will not be through his lineage that the Promise would be fulfilled. It will be through Isaac that the Promise will come. Through Isaac, the Messiah would come, and His rule would be established.

This passage is a good reminder that Ishmael and his descendants also will experience the blessing of God.  This blessing comes through their connection to Abraham by the covenant of circumcision. God graciously is able to extend his blessing to more than the singular line of Issac., but it is only through Isaac that God’s covenant and future reign would be accomplished.

This clarification for Abraham is stunning! He is 99 years old and Sarah is 90 years old at this point! This is news that goes beyond anything that Abraham could have ever imagined. This once again is evidence that we serve a BIG God.

Father, your grace truly is amazing. What a benevolent God you are! I am also so thankful that you are a God with a plan. You have been in control of your plan of salvation from day one. Thank you for loving us enough to control history to ensure the birth of a Savior for all the world.

Following Jesus with you,

He is God; I am Not

One of the scripture passages I find puzzling is Gen. 4, which describes the story of Cain and Abel. In that section, we see that both Cain and Abel bring sacrifices to God as an act of worship. Abel’s sacrifice is accepted, and Cain’s was not.

The text does not tell us why one offering pleased God and the other did not. Many speculate, but the text is silent as to God’s reasoning. We also know from Leviticus, that both types of offerings were good and acceptable so, to say Abel’s offering was better than Cain’s seems to be a stretch.

What then is the point of the story? Notice what is said in verses six and seven,

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’”

It appears that Cain was struggling with God’s right to be in authority over him and reject his offering! He was mad that his act of worship was not accepted and he was going to take it out on Abel. Allen Ross makes an excellent observation in this passage when he says that in the Garden, Eve, was a sinless and unfallen being who was talked into sin by the evil one. In contrast, Cain was a fallen being, who could not be talked out of sin even by God!

The story is showing that God is God and Cain is not. God has the authority to accept and reject at his discretion even when things do not appear right or fair from our perspective. As John Gibson notes in verse six,

“‘If you do well’ means not ‘if you behave yourself,’ but ‘if you accept my decision,’ however, difficult it may be for you to understand.” In conclusion, Gibson goes on to say, “Cain is being counseled to take it on the chin like a man, and not to give way to pique and indignation.”

How could Cain have successfully endured this frustrating set of circumstances? He simply needed to submit to God’s authority and accept it, even though he did not understand. Acting in this way would have worked out well for him, and his countenance would have changed from anger to joy. If he chose to fulfill his feelings of resentment and anger toward God, sin was waiting to pounce on him and control him. Unfortunately, Cain chose the latter, and he then killed his brother.

What can I learn from this for my life today? I need to remember God is God and I am not. I need to live a life yielded to his leadership regardless of my ability to understand why things work the way the do. I need to trust and obey.

Father, I am sorry for the times I grumble and complain when things do not appear to be working out in a way that I think is right or fair in my life. I need to heed your warning to Cain and yield to your leadership in my life and let go of feelings of frustration and resentment. I need to live above my circumstances and trust you and your leadership in my life.

Following Jesus with you,