The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I 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, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
(Genesis 22:15-18 NIV)
I remember reading this passage and thinking to myself, Wow, God must be very pleased with Abraham! Read it again. These are some very profound words. God seems so moved. I believe that whenever we obey God, no matter how difficult it may seem at the time (Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son!), it makes God very pleased with us because it shows that we truly love and trust Him. Although God was only testing Abraham, this test proved the depth of Abraham’s love for God. Jesus reminds us that if we love Him, we’ll obey His commandments (John 14:15). How much do you love God? I pray it’s enough to do what He asks of you.
The extent of our love for God is determined by the degree of our obedience.
Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence”… So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence. (Genesis 4:13-14, 16 NIV)
Even though God spared Cain’s life after he killed his brother Abel, Cain spent the rest of his life without God. Cain found this punishment unbearable and cried out to God, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence.” Without God in his life, Cain felt what many over the years have felt – meaningless. Renowned Bible teacher and author Joyce Meyer says, “Your worst day with God will be better than your best day without Him,” and she is right. Don’t live another day without Him. If Cain couldn’t bear it, we don’t stand a chance.
As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “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!” But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
(Genesis 19:17, 26 NIV)
Those who walk with God must learn to look forward not backward. When God was about to destroy the sinful city of Sodom, His angel warned Lot and his family to run and not look back. There was nothing in Sodom worth reminiscing about. God was displeased with the evil city and He was going to destroy it. However, despite being warned, Lot’s wife disobeyed and looked back. As a result, she became a pillar of salt; unable to move. Similarly, we’re often trapped in our past because we hesitate to move on. Jesus always looked forward. In the end, He fulfilled God’s purpose for His life and was victorious. We’re to be like Him if we don’t want to become trapped in our past and miss out on God’s best for us.
Late in the afternoon a breeze began to blow, and the man and woman heard the LORD God walking in the garden. They were frightened and hid behind some trees. The LORD called out to the man and asked, “Where are you?”
(Genesis 3:8-9 CEV)
After disobeying God, Adam and his wife Eve did what most people do when they sin – they hid from God. Because that’s what sin does – it separates us from a holy God. Yet the Bible tells us that God, who certainly knew what they had done, still looked for them and even clothed them with effective clothing to cover their shame.
God never gives up on us even after we sin. In fact, He continues to pursue us lovingly in order to bring us back to the right path. In the well known story, “The Lost Son,” Jesus demonstrates how God responds to those who come to Him, “The younger son got up and started back to his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). God is looking for you. Don’t run from Him, run to Him.
The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”
(Genesis 32:28 CEV)
For years, Jacob struggled to prevail. First, he struggled with his brother Esau, then with his father-in-law Laban. As he was about to re-enter Canaan, Jacob wrestled with God Himself, and after a long night of wrestling, God allowed him to win. God even renamed him Israel meaning, “he struggles with God.” What a relief it must have been for Jacob to no longer be remembered as a deceiver, but as a man who wrestles with God. What is it that you want? You can spend the rest of your life wrestling with people to prevail, or you can wrestle with the One who is the true source of blessing and overcome.
And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
(Genesis 2:16-17 NIV)
Interestingly enough, one of the trees that Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from was the tree of life, and this tree was in the middle of the garden next to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It seems like Adam and Eve were given a choice between eternal life and death. Sadly, the man and his wife chose the forbidden tree, which brought about their spiritual death – eternal separation from God’s presence.
Many years have passed since then, but we’re still confronted with two choices, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT). The good news is that we don’t have to make the same choice Adam and Eve did. Let’s believe in the Son so we might live!
God offers life through His Son, but it’s a choice we must make.
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13 NLT)
I had read this passage many times before, but I remember that one time when it really hit me – God sees me! I was going through a time in my life when I really needed to be reminded of that fact, just as I’m sure Hagar did. Hagar had heard of the God of her master Abraham, but now she was convinced that He was real and He saw her. He saw her plight and had compassion on her. To her, He was now “the One who sees me.” In fact, after giving God this name we’re told, “So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered (Genesis 16:14). The well became a constant reminder to her and all those who passed by it that God sees them. He sees you too.
When he hesitated, the men 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.
(Genesis 19:16 NIV)
In answer to Abraham’s prayer, God’s angels came to deliver Lot before destroying the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but sadly, it didn’t look like he wanted to leave. I love the fact that despite Lot’s foolishness, God was still merciful to Lot and his family and led them out by the hand, as a parent would to protect their child from coming danger. As God’s children, sometimes we, too, may find ourselves still holding on to things that aren’t good for us. When we hesitate to move in the right direction, it takes the mighty hand of God to keep us going. I’m so grateful for His helping hand that won’t let me go.
Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins.
(Genesis 25:21 NLT)
Isaac prayed twenty years for his barren wife Rebekah, and the Lord answered his prayer by giving Rebekah twin sons. It amazes me how many people miss out on God’s best simply because they don’t ask. The Bible even says, “you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it” (James 4:2). We think that God knows what we need, so we don’t trouble ourselves to ask Him for everything. However, He wants to hear from us. In fact, Jesus encouraged us to “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). When I don’t get something, God gently reminds me of the fact that I’ve simply forgotten to ask. Therefore, I’ve learned to ask even for the little things in life and watched God answer every time.
Don’t just expect God to know what you need. Ask Him for it.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”
(Genesis 21:6 NIV)
The Bible mentions two times when Sarah laughed – when God promised her a son in her old age (Genesis 18:12) and when the promise was fulfilled and she held her son in her arms, as we read in today’s passage (Genesis 21:6). It seems as though her husband Abraham named their son Isaac, meaning “laughter” (Genesis 21:3), not only to remind his wife of her unbelief and doubt, but also to remind her to laugh. The woman who had lived a life of shame and disgrace and shed bitter tears due to her infertility, could now laugh again because God had brought laughter into her life. Earlier when she had incited her husband to marry their Egyptian slave, Hagar, and have a child by her, Sarah only added more misery and grief to her life (Genesis 16). It wasn’t until she held the promise from God that she realized who the source of her joy really was – God Himself. And it gets better. Sarah’s joy infiltrated everyone else who heard about what God had done for her, and they laughed with her.
When was the last time you laughed? Whenever we go through tough times, we’re told, “one day you’re going to look back and laugh at this.” Sarah certainly did. “And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”’ (Genesis 21:7). There’s probably nothing in your life making you laugh right now. Perhaps like the barren Sarah, your life is empty of all joy and laughter. But I can assure you that as you continue to trust Him, God will bring laughter into your life, as He did for Sarah, so that others can laugh with you. “God will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21).