God’s Timing

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God’s Timing

Genesis 21:1-7

The Birth of Isaac 1

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Romans 5:1-8

Results of Justification

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

God speaks and creates the world around us. He uses His voice to teach us wisdom and to promise blessings in our lives. Following His voice, we put aside our pasts and find new ways to live. He does all of this and more, which is cause for constant thanksgiving except for onethiy: His timing.

God’s timing is not in sync with our own. He frustrates us most when He is showing His best but not when we hoped, expected, and planned for it. His ways are not our ways, and His timing is not our timing. It is better.

That is not always apparent though. Abraham and Sarah waited 20 years after God promised them a child before they experienced that promise kept. That was 20 more years they could have spent loving their son. Why? Simply because God thought a 60-year old giving birth was not challenging enough for Him so He raised the stakes to 80? Perhaps. God does show off His power more often than I believe we recognize. But ask yourself this: Do you think waiting for 20 years changed Abrahm and Sarah? I think it did. In fact, if the birth had taken place immediately, I don’t think Abraham would have had the faith or willingness to offer young Isaac back to God on Mount Moriah. They were changed not just by the miracle, but also in waiting on God’s timing of it.

On the other hand, God’s timing often is faster than our own. While He may sometimes seem slow to bring us blessings we focus on, like the watched kettle that never boils, He is incredibly quick to forgive. In fact, it often seems like God forgives us before we are even sorry. Aid so it should seem, for so it is. God does not wait for us to be ready for forgiveness. He sends it when we need it, not when we want it. We always need it before we want it. He exemplifies love to us in His timing by giving us what we need, when we need it… not what we want, when we want it.

How are you experiencing God’s timing today?

How are you loving according to the example of God’s timing?


  1. (Heb 11:11)

Traditions

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Traditions

Genesis 24:10-52

“Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all kinds of choice gifts from his master; and he set out and went to Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor. He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water; it was toward evening, the time when women go out to draw water. And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Let the girl to whom I shall say, ‘Please offer your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

Before he had finished speaking, there was Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, coming out with her water jar on her shoulder. The girl was very fair to look upon, a virgin, whom no man had known. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me sip a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, and said, “Tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” She added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder and a place to spend the night.” The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the way to the house of my master’s kin.”

Then the girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban; and Laban ran out to the man, to the spring. As soon as he had seen the nose-ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebekah, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man; and there he was, standing by the camels at the spring. He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside when I have prepared the house and a place for the camels?” So the man came into the house; and Laban unloaded the camels, and gave him straw and fodder for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. Then food was set before him to eat; but he said, “I will not eat until I have told my errand.” He said, “Speak on.”

So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’ I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you and make your way successful. You shall get a wife for my son from my kindred, from my father’s house. Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my kindred; even if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’

“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also”—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’

“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

Then Laban and Bethuel answered, “The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you anything bad or good. Look, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.”

When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before the Lord.

Mark 7:1-13

The Tradition of the Elders1

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

Traditions are created and sustained for reasons. Maybe I have watched too many murder mysteries, but I’ve come to believe that everyone and everything has motive. Every tradition has a start date and someone who got something out of it. The things we try and do not go over well we do not repeat, and traditions stop being traditions when we stop repeating them.

God started some traditions. The Sabbath is a great example of one. We keep the Sabbath so long as we get something good out of it, but as soon as a better option comes our way we make a run for it. You see, our selfish nature makes it harder to keep traditions for the sake of others rather than ourselves. Many people will recycle waste materials if it is free. Lots will do it if they get paid for it. Most will stop if they have to pay extra for recycling to be available.

So, when Abraham’s servant went looking for a wife for Isaac, he had a choice. The tradition was to take spouses from your own people. This had a lot to do with keeping families strong and property in the same family or tribe. That tradition made a lot of sense when they lived back home in Ur. If you want to start something new… a new tribe, it makes more sense to get in good with the neighbors. More treaties have been made throughout history by marriages than perhaps anything else. So Abraham’s servant was keeping tradition at a time when it made no sense to do so. It was keeping tradition for God not for themselves.

That is the opposite of the Pharisees in Mark. They held fast to tradition not for God’s sake, but because they were afraid of losing their identity. They practiced their traditions to be seen, not solely to honor God. Would you like to know a little secret? Wherever we let our natural selfishness direct our spiritual practices we move away from true religion and move into politics and personal preference. It’s not that religious practice is bad. It is that it is rarely pure.

Jesus teaches us to be aware of those impurities and to surrender them over to God.

What traditions are directing you this week?

What traditions that God has given us could you practice this week?


  1. (Mt 15:1–20)

You can’t Go Home Again

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You Can’t Go Home Again

Genesis 24:1-9

The Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but will go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac.” The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.

Acts 7:35-43

It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’ He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

‘Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices

forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?

No; you took along the tent of Moloch,

and the star of your god Rephan,

the images that you made to worship;

so I will remove you beyond Babylon.’

Thomas Wolfe’s posthumously published novel You Can’t Go Home Again puts a new spin on the experience of Jesus and the prophets and their work in their hometowns and parallels it with the work of an artist… in this case, an author. The memories he shared of his childhood home made him, and the people of his hometown nationally known. He appreciated the celebrity status. They did not. While he was not preaching to them, his nuanced portrayal would have dug into their own more secure self-perceptions. His artistic portrayal was challenging and in so being – prophetic.

There is another bit of prophetic work here as well, within the prophet-artist themselves. The home they portray is no more objetive than that of their neighbors. Even more than the direct criticism they receive, their own eyes and ears witness a different reality of home when they return home from their time away, out in the bigger world. Our attempts to return home frustrate ourselves, giving us doubts about our memories. One ancient Chinese poet, He Zhizhang, writes about this:

1 少小離家老大回

2 鄉音無改鬢毛摧(衰)

3 兒童相見不相識

4 笑問客從何處來

1 In youth, I left, now aged, I’ve come home,

2 My tongue unchanged, my hair thinner grown.

3 Unknown am I, to the children I meet,

4 Smiling they ask, “Where are you from?”1

Once you’ve left, you cannot go home again. One of the lies we are told is that we can somehow return to those romanticized places that may never have existed in the first place. On the other hand, Once you have met Jesus, nothing else looks the same ever again.

God doesn’t want us looking back wistfully. He wants us to lean forward into a future with Him.

What longing keeps you looking back?

What hope of a new home with Christ leads you onward?

Promises

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Promises

Genesis 21:1-7

The Birth of Isaac 1

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Hebrews 3:1-6

Moses a Servant, Christ a Son

Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also “was faithful in all God’s house.” Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.

Faith is all about promises and how we keep them. The Bible refers to most of these promises as covenants, the sacred promises made particularly between God and people. Somehow, these covenants which create relationships, seem to always get started by God and reciprocated (to a lesser degree) by us. It is how we get adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. God goes searching for lost people and finds us, and invites us home with Him.

Most of God’s promises are miraculous, whether they are big or small, loud or silent. It is almost as if God were too easily bored to just do things the simple way. He chose Abram and Sarai to be the parents of His chosen people, and instead of catching them at the ripe age of 18 or 20, God waited until they were 60 and 80 and then didn’t give them a child until 20 years later. By that point they were well beyond ripe. The fruit had fallen off the tree. Nevertheless, God kept His promise.

God chose Moses from birth, but led Him too on a 60 year wild goose chase from the palace of Pharaoh to the desert wilderness and back and forth over and over again. Moses, who is still celebrated as the Giver of the Law (or delivery man of it at least) never got to set foot in the Promised Land, but he led the people there. After going around the desert in circles for 40 years. There were definitely quicker routes.

Then there was Jesus, the Son of God Himself. He could have set things right with a word. Instead He chose to become the Word made flesh. He lived and served with us, suffered and died for us. That might seem counterproductive, but the author of Hebrews calls Him first here an apostle, one who is sent. We normally think of the first disciples as being the apostles, but I think Jesus was the original “sent” one. He trusted God’s promises and responded with His own faithfulness. Those who followed after Him saw His faithfulness and responded by trusting His promises and being faithful themselves.

What promises has God given you? Are they miraculous promises?

How are you responding to those promises?


  1. (Heb 11:11)