Monday, March 05, 2012
JOSEPH, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 3/5/2012
GOLD FROM AN UNLIKELY MINE, Lesson 36b
We hear a lot in our day about dysfunctional homes. I realize that many homes are in turmoil today. Divorces, sins of all kinds, absentee parents, among other evils, have left the home in tatters. In many cases it seems that little children growing up today do not stand a chance.
We are told that we are a product of our environment. We are told that our background shapes our lives to such a degree that how we were raised will determine how we will live. To a certain degree we are all products of our upbringing. We bring with us certain traits, habits and characteristics from the homes in which we were raised. Thankfully, that is not true in every case!
Joseph blows that theory out of the water! Before Joseph was thrown into a pit; before he served as a slave in Potipher’s house; before he languished in prison; and before he stood before Pharaoh as Prime Minister of Egypt, Joseph spent his formative years in a home marked by sin, sadness, strife and struggles. Yet, Joseph became a great man of God and was used of the Lord in tremendous ways.
Today, I want to examine the early years of Joseph’s life. I want to talk about those formative years that could have formed a boy into an evil man. Instead, I want you to see that God overcame Joseph’s family, his upbringing and all the negative influences he faced.
Looking at Joseph’s family and at his early years, most people would have concluded that Joseph didn’t stand a chance. After all, most of his brothers didn’t turn out too well. God, in His providence and by His power, was able to overcome all the negatives in Joseph’s life.
I want you to see how God dug “Gold From An Unlikely Mine“. Let me share some simple observations with you today as we focus on the thought “Gold From An Unlikely Mine“.
THE MIRACLE OF JOSEPH’S BIRTH
The Testimony Of His Birth – Joseph was born into a family embroiled in the midst of controversy. His father Jacob fell in love with his cousin, a girl named Rachel, and agreed to work for her father Laban, who was also Jacob’s uncle, for seven years, (Gen. 29:18). The deal was struck and after seven years, the wedding day arrived. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Leah was the oldest, but Rachel was, by far, the most attractive. On the evening of the wedding, Uncle Laban tricked the trickster and sent his eldest daughter Leah to Jacob’s tent instead of Rachel, (Gen. 29:23). Jacob spends his wedding night with Leah, and in the morning discovers the trick, (Gen 29:25). Jacob confronts Laban who agrees to let Jacob have Rachel in exchange for seven more years of work, (Gen. 29:27-28). He didn’t have to wait seven years to marry Rachel. He had to wait one week, (Gen. 29:27-30), but work seven more years for his uncle.
So, within a week, Jacob has two young wives. These two wives are sisters. Jacob clearly loves Rachel more than he does Leah, (Gen. 29:30). This sets the stage for jealousy, bitterness and anger.
It isn’t long before Leah gets pregnant, not once, but four times. She gives Jacob four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah, one after the other, (Gen. 29:32-35). Rachel comes unglued! The worse thing that could happen to a woman in that day was to be childless. She takes matters into her own hands and gives Jacob her handmaid Bilhah to have children in her place (Gen. 30:1-4). Bilhah has two sons, Dan and Naphtali, (Gen. 30:5-8). Leah sees this and knows that she isn’t having children again so she gives her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob to have children for her, (Gen. 30:9). Zilpah has two sons, Gad and Asher, (Gen. 30:10-13). After a time, Leah has three more children by Jacob, Issachar, Zebulon and a daughter named Dinah, (Gen. 30:17-21). Are you confused yet?
Now Jacob has ten sons and a daughter, but his beloved wife Rachel is still barren. However, God in His providence hears Rachel’s pleas for a son and Joseph is born, (Gen. 30:22-24). Joseph’s birth is a testimony in itself because God opened a barren womb to bring him into the world. He was born because of divine intervention! By the way, you are here because God, in His sovereignty, decided to send you to this world. Your birth was not an accident; it was the will of God! That is a testimony in itself!
The Triumph Of His Birth – Surely Jacob was proud of all his sons. Surely he was pleased with his little daughter Dinah. But, still something was missing! As he watched the woman he loved suffer because she could not have children, it must have broken his heart. But, God heard their prayers! God opened Rachel’s womb and Joseph was born! The birth of little Joseph brought about a time of rejoicing and great happiness in Jacob’s home. That is how the birth of a baby affects every home. Those cute, wrinkled dictators are born and they dominate the home. But, they bring with them such joy and satisfaction. Thank God for the privilege of seeing children come into the world!
C. The Timing Of His Birth – Joseph was the eleventh son born to Jacob. Reuben was Jacob’s first born. Form all outward appearances; Joseph entered this life at a disadvantage. It did not appear that there was much hope for his future in the family. He would always be the low man on the totem pole, being bossed around and picked on by the others. The timing of his birth could not have been worse, from a human perspective. But, as we will see, God knew what He was doing, and like cream, Joseph rose to the top of that family. You might look at your own life today and feel like everything is against you. Don’t count the Lord out! He has a plan for you, and He will implement and execute that plan, no matter how things may appear.
INVITE A FRIEND TO YHE TEAM!
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW!
Sunday, March 04, 2012
JOSEPH, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 3/4/2012
INTRODUCTION, Lesson 36a
The pages of our Bibles are filled with the stories of hundreds of men and women. Nearly every story contains one common thread. Whether the character is a king or a peasant, a prophet or a general, a fisherman or a preacher; nearly every person mentioned in the Bible has his or her dark side revealed.
Noah got drunk. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lied to save their own hides. Moses committed murder. David was guilty of adultery. Solomon was an idolater. Peter cursed and lied. John the Baptist doubted Jesus. The list could go on and on. The pages of the Bible are filled with the sins of the people mentioned on its pages.
The verses we will read today introduce us to a man named Joseph. He was the eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob. His name means “Jehovah has added”. He lived 110 years and there is not a single sin attributed to this man. He endured trials and afflictions that most of cannot even imagine and nowhere does the Bible even hint that his faith in God wavered. He never seemed to get his eyes of the Lord.
Whether he was in the place of favor in his father’s house or languishing in a prison, he was the same man. Hardship did not harden his heart. Riches and power did not corrupt him. He was the same man regardless of the circumstances in which he found himself. Joseph was truly a unique man!
Perhaps this is why the Holy Spirit gives Joseph so much space in the book of Genesis. He receives the same number of chapters as Abraham: fourteen. Yet, there are 25 percent more verses dedicated to Joseph’s life. He was a great man of God. While Joseph receives much attention in the Old Testament, he is mentioned only four times in the New Testament, (John 4:5; Acts 7:9-14; Heb. 11:21-22; Rev. 7:8). We are left to learn about Joseph from the record given to us in the book of Genesis.
Another characteristic that marks Joseph’s life is the number of areas where he pictures the Lord Jesus Christ. As you study his life you encounter over one hundred particular points where Joseph is a type of Jesus Christ. Perhaps we will point out some of those along the way.
Besides being a godly man and a type of Jesus, the study of Joseph’s life is valuable because he stands as a model of what every believer should strive to be. He never wavered. He never fell. He never complained. He never compromised. He never lost his power with God. He stood his ground for the glory of God in man’s terrible situations. His life demonstrates the triumph of faith.
Beyond all that, one of the greatest aspects of Joseph’s life is how clearly the hand of God can be seen in it. The providence of God is on display throughout the narrative of Joseph’s life. In every event in the life of Joseph, God was busy fulfilling Rom. 8:28.
I would like for us to spend the next few lessons with a man named Joseph. I would like to take Gen. 50:20 as my text for this series. That verse says, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” I would also like to borrow my title for this series from that verse.
I would like to take the life of Joseph and preach around the theme “God Meant It For Good”. I hope to show you how God can take every circumstance in life, whether we see it as good or evil, and use it to make us stronger in our walk with Him. I want you to understand that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing God working behind the scenes of your life to bring you to the place of Christian maturity.
With that in mind, let’s look in on the early years of this man named Joseph and learn the great truth that God Meant It For Good.
To Be Continued Monday!
Saturday, March 03, 2012
ISAAC, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 3/3/2012
V. 14b-22 IT IS A LIFE OF GREAT PROBLEMS, Lesson 35b
Even Isaac’s life wasn’t filled with all blessings and glories. He fought some real battles and so will you! Let’s look at a couple of the battles Isaac was required to fight.
V. 14b-16 He Faced Problems With The World - The Bible tells us that the Philistines were jealous of Isaac. Why? Because they could see the hand of God on his life! He was prospering while they were struggling! Because they were jealous, they tried to make his life hard by plugging up the wells that had been dug by his father Abraham. Their king even kicked Isaac out of the country! Just as it was with Isaac, the Lord’s pilgrims should never expect to be accepted and understood by the world. The fact of the matter is this: the Lord tells us clearly that those who live for Him will be persecuted as they pass through this world, (2 Tim. 3:12).
Of course, some of the same tactics the Philistines used against Isaac are still being employed against the people of God! They become jealous when they can’t explain or understand our peace and joy under trials. They do their best to rob us of the blessings we have as children of God when they see us walking by faith through this world. They will seek to stop up the wells from which we are drawing through discouragement, intimidation and personal attacks. Yet, the Lord said it would be this way and He tells us to rejoice when this kind of situation arises in our lives, (Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Pet. 4:12-16). So, when the world turns on you, don’t be surprised or don’t get upset. Instead, rejoice in the Lord. It will make them worse, but God will be honored and He will see you through!
V. 17-22 He Faced Problems With His Wells -
We already know that the Philistines plugged up the wells of Abraham, but they even fought with Isaac over the new well he was digging in the wilderness. Why all this fascination with wells? There are several reasons. The primary one being the fact that men and animals must have water to survive. In that country, being semi-desert, water was as valuable as oil is today! In those days, all waste lands were called “God’s lands”. If any man could live in a desert place, provide for his family and flocks and open a well, then that land was considered to be his land! In other words, a well was a statement of ownership! To fill in a well was an act of war! These Philistines hated Isaac so much that they declared war on him by trying to seize his lands and drive him away from that which was his! Notice the fights he had to undertake.
V. 18 He Had To Clean Out The Old Wells -
Many years before, his father Abraham had passed through the land and he had dug some wells of water. He dug those wells to meet needs in his day and to pass them down to his son Isaac so that needs could be met in his days as well. The Philistines had come along and had plugged these wells to prevent Isaac from using them. Notice that the Philistines didn’t want them for themselves, they just didn’t want Isaac to have them. He had to take the time to reopen those wells! These old wells speak to us of the spiritual resources that were uncovered and proclaimed by our spiritual fathers in days gone by. If we are not careful, the world will destroy everything that we have been given! Many of the wells from which our fathers drank have already been stopped! Think of it, there used to be a day when God’s people drank deeply from the well of praise and worship! The world has stopped that well by telling us that we should not be fanatics about Jesus. Our fathers opened for us the wells of Scripture, of salvation, of sanctification, of service, of the great fundamental doctrines of the faith! And the world has come along a tried to stop them up. Liberalism has tried to change our beliefs! There is a need right now for God’s people to re-dig the wells that the world has tried to stop up! We must contend for the old ways, if we do not, the old ways will die when we do!
V. 19-22 He Had To Contend For The New Wells -
As he moved along in his pilgrimage, Isaac was always in the business of digging new wells. Every time he opened a well, his enemies tried to take it away from him. The water from the old wells were cool and refreshing, but more water was needed now. Therefore, new wells were dug! Three of those wells are mentioned here by name:
1. Esek - This word means “Contention”.
2. Sitnah - This word means “strife or hatred”. It has the idea of “laying in wait to ensnare someone”. The name Satan comes from the same root word.
3. Rehoboth - This word means “a wide open place”. It was at Rehoboth that the Philistines finally left Isaac alone!
Everywhere the man went, he faced a fight! The Philistines tried to take that for which he had labored. The same is true in the world today. Look at the world, and you will see that they tried to take everything that belongs to the people of faith. They have high-jacked Christmas and Easter. They even steal our language by talking about God, being born again, or all sorts of spiritual things. But, we must contend for the faith, (Jude 3). If we do not, then there will be not faith to pass down to the next generation, (2 Tim. 2:2). “Commit thou” means “to set before, or to set a table”.
For Isaac, the pilgrimage here was one fight after another! I can guarantee you that your journey through this world will not come without a fight as well. But, take moment to look around at the children. Then think outside the walls about those who do not know the Lord Jesus. Remember, you are fighting for them! Every time we reopen a well the world has closed; every time we dig a new well for the needs of today; every time we defend the wells we have, we are serving the Lord, the lost and the little ones! It is a ministry that must be performed at all costs! If it isn’t , there will be nothing left to defend and nothing at all to pass down! We may have to fight for what our fathers believed and we may have to fight for what we believe, but the Lord watches over the whole matter and like he did for Isaac, He will make a place for us!
V. 23-25 IT IS A LIFE OF GREAT PRIVILEGES
Isaac enjoyed the Lord’s provisions in his life and he also experienced some problems as well. But, these last few verses in our text let us in on the fact that pilgrim life is also marked by its privileges.
V. 24 The Privilege Of Enjoying God’s Words - The Lord appeared to Isaac and renewed His promises once again! There is no greater privilege than that of experiencing the Lord’s presence and hearing His voice. We have been given His Word to speak to our hearts, (Ps. 119:1050, but we have also been given His Spirit and He speaks to us as well, (John 16:130). It was the voice of God that got the attention of Elijah, (1 Kings 19:12. When He speaks, His sheep know Him, (John 10:3-4).
V. 25 The Privilege Of Enjoying God’s Worship - Isaac prepared an altar and went before his God in worship! This is a privilege enjoyed by those who know the Lord! What an honor it is to be able to enter into His presence to worship Him and to love Him, 9John 4:23-24, Heb. 4:16), when we stop to think of what we were before He found us.
V. 25 The Privilege Of Enjoying God’s World - Isaac was able to pitch his tent in the place God had marked off for him and he dwelt there. He was enjoying the blessings of God even while journeying through a hostile land. It is becoming increasingly clear that God’s true church is not wanted in this world. This world is not our home and the natives of this world do not like us being here. But, the Lord has a way of bringing His best into our lives as we travel along. While our hearts beat for Heaven, and our feet walk through this foreign land, our Father attends our way with His blessings and He makes the pilgrimage glorious!
V. 25 The Privilege Of Enjoying God’s Water - Isaac and his servants dug a final well and enjoyed the water that flowed from it. After all the work unstopping Abraham’s well and after all the fighting over the new wells, Isaac is given a well of water that is all his. God has a way of giving us exactly what we need just when we need it. As you pass through this world, look for you a well! The Lord said that when He save you, He placed a well within you, (John 4:14). It is a spiritual well that will never run dry. Still, we need to find ourselves drinking from a spiritual well that never runs dry. Take the time, as you pass through this world, to avail yourself of the spiritual refreshment the Lord had placed within easy reach. I’m talking about the Word of God and prayer! Those two things will refresh the soul quicker than anything else! Are you drinking from the well?
Conc: So, pilgrims, keep marching! Keep heading toward that city that captured the hearts of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Heb. 11:10. One day we will take the last faltering step down here and we will set foot on the shores of home. Until then, keep looking to Him for your provisions. Keep trusting Him through all the problems. And, keep thanking Him for all the privileges you enjoy as His child. There may be days when the journey is rough, but there never be a day when it isn’t worthwhile!
TODAY’S PRAYER and BLESSING!
“Most Holy Father, You formed man from the dust of the ground, breathed in to his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. We thank You for the breath of life You have given us. We pray You will breath new life into us today. Just as You spoke and brought life in Your magnificent world, help us to speak Your words that brings life into our own small world. How blessed we are to be closely connected to YOU in Every way. Thank YOU Father! This we pray in Jesus’ blessed name, Amen!”
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Friday, March 02, 2012
ISAAC, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 3/2/2012
THE REALITIES OF A PILGRIM’S LIFE, Lesson 35a
The Patriarch Isaac was a man who lived in the shadows. If you think about it, he lived his live first under the shadow of his great father Abraham, then he lived his live in the shadow of his great son Jacob. Abraham is the star of some 14 chapters of the book of Genesis and Jacob is the central figure of another 12 or so. But Isaac, is only featured in a handful of chapters. It is only here, in this 26th chapter of Genesis that we are allowed a glimpse into the life and work of this man.
Among the things we note about him is that he was a man of faith, (v. 2-5). In fact, he is listed in Hebrews 11:20 among the great heroes of the faithful. We can also see here that he, like the rest of us, was far from perfect, (v. 6-11), because he was guilty of committing some of the same sins that his father Abraham had committed. Another thing we notice about this man is the fact that he was a pilgrim. That is, he moved from place to place, like his father, not actually owning any of the land upon which he lived.
It is in his role as a pilgrim that Isaac pictures the child of God. If I may I remind you , the Bible teaches us very clearly that we are “strangers and pilgrims” in this world, (1 Pet. 2:11). The word “strangers” means “a stranger, a foreigner, one who lives in a place without the right of citizenship”. And, the word “pilgrim” means, “sojourning in a strange place; a metaphor for one who sojourns on earth”. In fact, the Bible tells us that every saved person is a citizen of heaven, (Phil. 3:20, 1 Pet. 1:4-5).
Today, I want to examine the life of Isaac the pilgrim. Because in his pilgrimage through the world, encounters many of the same problems and he experiences many of the same blessings that cross paths with us as we journey toward glory. Let’s take a few minutes today to examine the life of this man, and as we do, I just want to point out “The Realities Of A Pilgrim’s Life“. There is help and hope in this passage today for everyone who is walking the pilgrim’s path!
V. 12-14a IT IS A LIFE OF GREAT PROVISIONS
The Size Of The Provisions - We are told that Isaac enjoyed a 10,000% return on his investment! What makes this all the more astounding is the fact that this occurred during a time of famine, (v. 1). While everyone around him was going broke and starving to death, Isaac prospered. His crops flourished while the crops of others dried up. His flocks and herds grew while the flocks and herds of others starved and died of thirst. It seemed like Isaac had the golden touch.
The Source Of The Provisions - Some may have called it good luck, others may have looked upon Isaac and wondered how he did it, but the fact of the mater is this: God was just blessing him! Isaac wasn’t a better farmer than the other farmers. He didn’t know more about botany, horticulture or zoology than the other men around him. But, he did have an advantage, he knew God and that translated into blessings in his life when others were experiencing defeat! You see, when the famine arose, there was evidently a temptation within Isaac’s heart to flee to Egypt like Abraham had before him, (v. 2). However, in obedience to the Lord’s command, he stayed where he was, in the midst of that famine, and God honored his obedience! I would just like to point something out to every believer today: the very fact that you know God in a personal way places you in a position to enjoy His wonderful provisions in your life! You may look at your situation today and say, “Preacher, it sure doesn’t look like I’m receiving a 10,000% return on my investment! I’m saved, following the Lord and trying to be obedient, but I’m just about flat broke and everything is falling apart in my life!” Friends, just because God isn’t paving your path with diamonds and giving you a new Rolls Royce every year doesn’t mean that He isn’t blessing you.
Look at it this way: you may have it as bad, or even worse, than those around you who aren’t saved, but you have something they do not have! You have a personal relationship with the Lord God of Heaven! What does that give you? Well, the list is almost endless, but a few of the benefits are:
1. Eternal salvation - never lost!
2. The presence of God in your life - never alone!
3. The power of God working in your life - never in a hopeless situation!
4. The promises of God active in your life - never without hope!
5. The Word of God to guide your life - never without direction!
The list could go on, but you think about it; if you are saved and your neighbor is not, who’s children have a better hope of heaven? What kind of a value do you on place on that? Would you rather have money or the Master? Well, if you have the Master, He will take care of all the real needs in your life anyway! Isaac enjoyed the great blessings that he did because he was obedient to the command of God, (v. 2-4). The same thing holds true for you and me. If we will put God where He belongs: first; then, He will see to the rest of our lives, (Matt. 6:33). No one said this life would be easy, in fact the Bible teaches the opposite, but, those who walk with God know that He is in control, “The unseen hand of providence“! What looks like the worst disaster you ever faced can be used of God to bring into your life some of the greatest blessings you have ever enjoyed, (Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17).
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“Mansion Over The Hilltop” By Ira Stanhill (1949)
I'm satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that's silver lined
I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold
Don't think me poor or deserted or lonely
I'm not discouraged I’m heaven bound
I'm but a pilgrim in search of the city
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown
I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold
Invite A Friend To The Team!
Thursday, March 01, 2012
Following In The Footsteps Of Faith , 3/1/2012
ABRAHAM GATHERED TO HIS PEOPLE, Lesson 34
These verses record the end of a great life! Abraham was taken from among a pagan people and make the Father of the Faithful. He was taught the harsh lessons of faith and obedience. He suffered for God and he enjoyed the best God had to offer. In the end, his life is concluded by the words "and was gathered to his people."
As I consider the life of this great man, I realize that there are certain characteristics that were present in his life that need to be found in us as well. I would like to point out just a few of those characteristics as we conclude our study of this great man of faith. As we come to the end of this study and to the end of Abraham's life, I see some similarities with what could have been said about him and what might be said about us when we too leave this world. These similarities are made clear by the characteristics I want to point out. So, while we have this time to look into the Word of God, let's consider this thought, "Abraham: Gathered To His People."
When someone dies, three things usually come up at some point during a discussion of the deceased individual's life. Those three things are: 1.) How they lived their life; 2.) Some of the events surrounding their death; and 3.) Where did they stand with the Lord. These are the three characteristics I want to talk about this.
HOW HE LIVED HIS LIFE
It Was A Life Of Faith - One of the clearest and most striking things about Abraham's life is how he lived everyday and took every step by faith in God. His faith was not declared by him, but it was declared years later by the writer of the book of Hebrews, (Heb. 11:8). This is the kind of life that God wants everyone of His children to live, (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 14:23; Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). If the people of God could ever learn to let go of their lives and leave them in the hands of the Lord, it would revolutionize our lives and forever end the struggles we have with worry and fear, (Phil. 4:6-7). Faith is not just for the super saint, it is for all believers… Even you!
It Was A Life Of Following - Heb. 11:9 tells us that the life of Abraham was one lived in the acts of following. Wherever the Lord pointed him, that was the direction he took. It would seem that Abraham had no life of his own, but that his life was one totally given over to the will of the Lord. A life spent following the Lord is a life that will always end up in the right place! Why? (Ps. 37:23)! When He leads the destination is assured!
It Was A Life Of Favor - Because Abraham walked in faith and followed the Lord regardless of where He led him, God abundantly blessed the life of this amazing man. He blessed him financially, militarily, physically, spiritually and He blessed Abraham's family as well. Of course, this had been the oft repeated promise that Abraham had been given by the Lord, (Gen. 12:2-3; 17:16; 22:17). God had promised to bless him and God did just that! I can guarantee you that a life lived for the Lord is a life that will not lack blessing! He may not bless you in the ways you want Him too, but I can guarantee you that He will bless your life in the ways that matter the most! (Eph. 1:3). It is worthy of noting how the life of Abraham fleshed out the list of graces that are to characterize those who believe in Jesus (2 Peter 1:5-11). He had all of these great attributes in his life and it proved that a work of grace had been done in his heart! By the way, we are to be abounding in these things as well! Why? When we have them in our lives in abundance, they make us fruitful, (v. 8); they give us assurance of our salvation, (v. 9); they help prevent us from falling, (v. 10); they give us a glorious entrance into the kingdom, (v. 11).
HOW HE LAID DOWN HIS LIFE
In his life, Abraham was a wonderful example of what a believer should be, but even in his dying there are precious truths that can be seen in him that should mark all those who know the Lord Jesus!
He Laid It Down With Readiness - v. 8 - "He gave up the ghost" - There was not struggling to stay, but a simple releasing of life when it came time to go. He had lived a full and long life, 175 years, but when the time came to make the crossing out of this life into the next, Abraham did so with grace and serenity. Why? Because he had spent his life looking for a particular city. Not a city that can be found on this earth, but an everlasting city made by the hands of God in Heaven, (Heb. 11:10). Abraham knew that Sarah was waiting on him on the other side. He knew that the only way to reach that city and to be with Sarah again was to give up the ghost. That he did without fear, fretting or fighting. His deathbed scene was one of peace!
Everyone has looked beyond the years to a day when we too will make this crossing. It isn't something we discuss, but it does come to mind from time to time! I have noted that the passing years seem to bring the thought around more often. However, those who know the Lord have a great assurance when we look at the day of our departure! We have the Lord's promise concerning that day. For us, it will be a time of laying aside the temporary for the permanent, (2 Cor .5:1). It will be a time of leaving the land of the dying to enter the land of the living, (John 11:25-26). It will be a time of passing through the veil to stand in the presence of the Lord Himself, (2 Cor. 5:8). It will be nothing more that a "departure", (2 Tim. 4:6), from this life and an entrance into a new and better life in that same city Abraham looked for. Abraham knew it before there was even a Bible from which to read it! He knew it by faith and so do I! How about you?
He Laid It Down With Reassurance - The Bible tells us that he was "gathered to his people." This does not have reference to the grave! No, he was buried with Sarah in Canaan. His people had died in Haran and Ur. Abraham was gathered to those who had died before him in faith! He went to that place where those died in faith were waiting for him, (Luke 16:23)! They were all waiting for another One Who came into their midst with some glorious news one day!
When Jesus died on the cross, He descended into Paradise with the glorious news that redemption had been purchased for all those who had died in faith! With that news, He lead them out of Paradise and into Heaven in a glorious parade of triumph and victory, (Eph. 4:8-10; 1 Pet. 3:19)! Somehow, Abraham knew this by faith! You and I have a better assurance that even Abraham had! He was to go to Paradise to stay until the price was paid. Neither he, nor anyone else, knew how long that would be! They were looking forward to that event. We look backward at that event today! It is finished! The way is opened and all those who died in faith are immediately gathered home to the presence of the Lord in Heaven!
HOW HE LOVED HIS LORD
A third characteristic of Abraham's life that is worthy of note is how he loved the Lord.
His Love Was Displayed - All through his life, he simply obeyed what the Lord told him to do! When the Lord said go, he went. When the Lord said do, he did. When the Lord said stay, he stayed. He obeyed even when the command was difficult and costly. He obeyed when every instinct within him told him to do the opposite. You see, the true essence of love for the Lord is that genuine love always manifests itself in obedience to God, regardless of what He says to do! This was a truth that became crystal clear because of the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, (John 14:15; 21). We can say anything we wish about the level of our love for Him, but the ultimate expression of our love for Jesus will be found in how we obey Him in whatever He tells us to do!
His Love Was Declared - As you read the Bible, you see the love of Abraham declared. But, it is never declared by Abraham! Isn't that strange? There are lots of people who want to tell us how much they love the Lord. Abraham didn't talk about it, he just did it! There is a big difference! However, the love of Abraham is declared in the Bible. It is mentioned by a man named Jehoshahat in 2 Chr. 20:7. God Himself talks of this man Abraham and his love for the Lord in Isa. 41:8. Both of these references refer to Abraham as being a "friend" of the Lord. This means "one well beloved by another." You may wonder how I can make to leap from Abraham being called a friend of God to his love for the Lord. The answer lies in what Jesus said in John 15:14 and in John 14:15. Taken together, those two passages tell us that one who is God's friend is one who is obedient to the Lord. And, those who walk in obedience are those who really love Him!
Conc: As you consider these characteristics from the life of Abraham, I wonder how your life measures up. How is your life being lived? Are you ready to lay it down the right way when the time comes? Do you really love the Lord today? These are extremely important questions that need to be addressed in your life and mine. I don't want to be Abraham, but I do want to look at those areas in my life that could be changed to line up more clearly with what God found pleasing in his life. We should all want to glean the best of Abraham's characteristics and make them true in our own lives as well!
NOTE: My computer may be down today because I have a dental appointment and we are switching internet company, but hopefully we will be back with YOU on Friday. Then we will continue to look at Isaac and Joseph.
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