Genesis 21, Nehemiah 10, Psalm 20

Today we’re reading Genesis 21, Nehemiah10, Psalm 20.

This devotional is about Genesis 21.

A new man is joining the FPC—Former President’s Club—today. While former Presidents retain Secret Service protection and other benefits, they no longer live in the White House, work in the Oval Office, or give orders to the military. That’s because when a person leaves a position of power, they lose the power the position gave them. The power stays with the position not with the person.

Here in Genesis 21, Abraham’s life finally achieved a measure of peace. He felt at peace with God’s promises because the son God promised him was born and had begun to grow and mature (vv. 1-8). Though it was a sad occasion, his other son Ishmael was sent away in order to ensure that Abraham’s estate would go to his son Isaac (vv. 9-21). That action gave him some peace with his wife (vv. 9-10). Although Abraham felt personally troubled about it (v. 11), God reassured him that Ishmael and Hagar would be cared for and become prosperous (vv. 11-21).

Then Abraham made a peace treaty with others in his region with whom he’d had some difficulties (vv. 22-31). So some turbulent areas in his life were now settling down. As I was reading this passage and trying to visualize what it was like, I felt almost a sigh of relief when “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba” (v. 33). It’s almost as if he planted that tree expecting to live there for a while (v. 34: “for a long time”) to enjoy its beauty and shade. So, Abraham was feeling more settled, perhaps, than he had felt in a while.

But notice what comes next in verse 33: “there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God.” This takes us back to the Former President’s Club. I said that the power of the office stayed with the office after every individual left it. But “the Lord” is “the Eternal God” (v. 33b). He never gives up the office; he can’t because only he can occupy it and only he is worthy of it. He is God for eternity. The circumstances of Abraham’s life were placid now but tumultuous at other points. What carried him through the tough times in his life was the knowledge that the LORD is “the eternal God.” God’s promises would not fail because he eternally held the power and position needed to make his promises true in reality.

Is your life in tumult? Do you feel distressed like Abraham did in verse 11? Is there a situation in your life where you have to settle for something different than what you want? Trust the Lord. He’s the Eternal God. His plans often perplex us, but they never cause him distress. Every tumultuous situation we face in life is a new lesson on trusting God and being at peace with his eternal plan.

Genesis 20, Nehemiah 9, Psalm 19

Today, read Genesis 20, Nehemiah 9, and Psalm 19.

This devotional is about Genesis 20.

Abraham and Sarah did this, “We’re brother and sister” thing before back in Genesis 12:10-20. On that occasion, they were in Egypt; here they are in Gerar. In Genesis 12, God protected Sarah just as he did here.

But this was equally stupid both times. In Genesis 12:11, 13 Abraham told Sarah, “I know what a beautiful woman you are…. say you are my sister.” If they were merely brother and sister, then this beautiful woman would be single and available for anyone who wanted her. Predictably, that’s what happened; she was added to the harem of Pharaoh (Gen 12) and Abimelek (here in Gen 20). In both cases, Abraham lost his wife and put God’s promises in jeopardy. In both cases, only God’s miraculous intervention preserved Sarah and allowed her to become the covenant mother that God had promised she would be.

So why would Abraham do this–knowingly and predictably put his wife in a situation where she would be taken by other men?

The answer–in both cases–was fear.

Abraham was afraid of being killed so that someone could get to Sarah (v. 11). So he just lied and made Sarah available. This was unloving to her and unbelievable in that Abraham and his men had just defeated a cohort of kings in Genesis 14. If Abraham and his men were powerful enough to liberate Lot and Sodom from these kings, surely they could have protected Abraham’s life and Sarah from being abducted.

This incident shows what happens when we live in fear instead of faith in God’s promises. We make foolish decisions. God protected Abraham because of his covenant promises to Abraham that he would become a great nation through the son born to Sarah. But God would have been just to allow the consequences of Abraham’s foolish actions to happen.

Are you living your life in fear instead of in faith? Do you use lies and deception to manipulate others instead of trusting God to care for you and provide for you? It is easy and tempting for us to fall into a similar trap as Abraham. Learn from his negative example in this instance and trust God instead of acting in fear.

Genesis 16, Nehemiah 5, Psalm 15

Today, read Genesis 16, Nehemiah 5, Psalm 15.

This devotional is about Genesis 16.

Genesis 15 was such a beautiful chapter about Abram’s relationship to God. After Abram saved Lot and his cohorts but refused to take any gains for himself in Genesis 14, God appeared to him in Genesis 15 and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Abram was honest with God about the pain of having no heir despite all God had promised him (vv. 2-3). God re-affirmed his promise to Abram (vv. 4-5) and even made an unconditional covenant ceremony for Abram (vv. 9-21). Verse 6 of chapter 15 told us that, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

What a beautiful chapter!

Once he left that metaphorical spiritual mountaintop, however, Abram acquiesced to the request of Sarai here in Genesis 16 (vv. 1-4). Her solution to the lack of an heir was reasonable and acceptable in their culture and it worked (v. 4)! But it was an act of unbelief in the promises of God and created all kinds of problems in Abram’s household (vv. 5-6). This is one of the ways that sin appeals to us. It offers us a direct and easy solution to the problems that bother us the most. And, it usually works, at least for a while. Because we are not all-knowing, we never see the consequences coming. We ignore God’s promises and his warnings, make choices in fear instead of faith, then are filled with regrets and complications.

One way people do this is by dating someone who is unsaved. Every Christian knows that it is wrong date an unbeliever. And, sometimes, God is gracious and saves an unbeliever who unequally yoked with a Christian.

More often, however, the believer compromises again and again. They know it is wrong to date an unbeliever, but they tell themselves that they won’t marry him or her. Besides, he’s a good guy or she’s a nice girl. They have strong qualities and good morals, so there’s really no risk. When a good Christian comes along, the believer thinks they’ll end the ungodly relationship. For now, though, it feels good to be loved.

And, in some cases, they tell themselves that they’ll remain pure even though their unsaved boy/girlfriend doesn’t understand the “wait until marriage” thing. That creates greater pressure to compromise morally than one already feels from his or her own physical body. When the unbeliever proposes, the Christian decides to marry him or her, hoping that God will save their spouse but feeling thankful for someone to love and marry.

Again, sometimes God is merciful and gracious, but that’s not usually how the story goes. Even when God is merciful and saves an unbelieving spouse, there are still tensions and temptations that go with compromising in this area. Not to mention that dating an unbeliever is a sin by itself.

I am concerned for professing Christians who are in relationships with unbelievers or with people who may profess Christ but don’t seem to walk with him much. I understand your desire and how tempting it is to compromise. But look at the problems that Abram and Sarai created by trying to solve their problems themselves instead of trusting the Lord to provide. The longer you live in one sinful situation, the greater the pressure will be to compromise morally again and again. It will not get easier to do right in the future. It will get harder, more painful and costly. Just trust the Lord and do what he tells you. I promise you, he won’t let you down.

Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, and Psalm 11

Today’s scheduled readings are Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, and Psalm 11.

This devotional is about Genesis 12.

Every large nation, every big, extended family, every large church or institution or corporation once started out as something small. Even if it scaled up quickly, it began with the idea and ambition of one person or a small group of people.

God promised Abram that he would become “a great nation” (v. 2) when all he had was his wife and nephew. In faith, Abraham believed God’s promises and rearranged his life to be obedient.

That’s verses 1-9. In verse 10 and following, however, Abram acted in fear rather than faith. He instructed his wife to deceive, putting her in jeopardy so that he could protect himself. It was quite a departure from the venture of faith we read about in verses 1-9.

Although Abram was inconsistent in his faith, God was faithful. Because of his promises, God acted supernaturally to extricate Abram and Sarai from the problem that Abram’s unbelief created.

Isn’t it amazing how good God is? He calls us to trust him and is patient with us when our trust in him buckles a little in the knees. If you are the kind of Christian who is always wondering if God still accepts you, let this passage encourage you. None of us is always completely obedient to God at all times. Far from it, actually. It is not our faithfulness that matters; it is the object of our faith. If your faith is in yourself–your consistency, your obedience, your morality, your dependability, or whatever, that will do you know good because you can never be perfect.

If your faith is in God, however, he won’t abandon you when you fail. His character, his promise, and the righteousness of his son applied to us is all that we will ever need.