Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. (James 1:22-26)
There are times in the Bible where we read about people who went ‘to inquire of the Lord.’ Here are two examples:
Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel enquired of the LORD, saying, "Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?" (Judges 1:1)
The people enquired of the Lord in order to determine who should be their king: Therefore they inquired further of the LORD, "Has the man come here yet?" So the LORD said, "Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage." (1 Sam 10:22)
People expected answers when they ‘enquired of the Lord’. We see, also, that they acted upon the information they were give. They ‘listened’ to God.
The word ‘listen’ in the Bible isn’t just a simple hearing with ears; implicit within that word is that it is followed by action.
In Genesis 25 we read these words:
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
The Lord said to her,“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:21-23)
In Rebekah’s discomfort, she, like others, enquired of the Lord and He answered her. Before the twins were born, the Lord predicted that Esau would serve Jacob (Genesis 25:23). However, subsequently, it would seem, that Isaac and Rebekah didn’t ‘listen’ to what they had been told.
There came a time when Isaac was very old; he wanted to bless Esau. God had told them ahead of time that ‘the older will serve the younger.’ Perhaps along with his failing eyesight and bodily strength, his spiritual acumen was also failing. But we know that Rebekah understood the situation and, rather than go and remind Isaac of the prophesy so that God would fulfil it his way, she turned to deception. This failure to ‘listen’, to act upon what she knew resulted in two decades of enmity between the brothers, with Jacob having to flee for his life from Esau. Sadly also, we never read that Rebekah saw her beloved son Jacob again.
It’s not enough to ‘hear’ what God says. We need to ‘listen, and that means acting on what He says. When we do, we find the kingdom of Heaven reigning in our lives, and we live the victorious life God Has planned for us”
Someone once said:
“Listen for God
Listen to God
And then do what He says”
This is a word for us today.
How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you.
You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. (Psalm 31:19 NLT)
This week, I have been reading again of Abraham, one of the most well known and well loved men in the Old Testament. Chapters 11 to 25 of Genesis chronicle his life.
In Genesis 12:2 we read that Abraham is both the receiver of and the instrument of blessing:
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
We also read that he was a devout man. On a number of occasions, we read of him building altars to God. For example, the first was an altar of gratitude and praise:
The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:7)
We also observe that Abraham was a gracious, noble and generous man. A time comes when Abraham separates from his nephew Lot to resolve a dispute between their respective workers. Abraham nobly allowed Lot first choice of the land, knowing that he would choose what looked like the best for himself. And Abraham would, some time later, prove himself to be loyal to this same nephew who, through his own unwise choices, found himself in a city, besieged, overcome and its inhabitants taken captive by the enemy. Abraham bravely pursued the attackers and:
He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. (Genesis 14:16)
And of course, he was a man of obedience, willing to give to God his most precious possession, the life of his own son.
However, Abraham was a man who sometimes fluctuated between faith and fear. When he wandered into territories occupied by other settlers, he adopted a strategy of deception to protect himself. In his own words, speaking of Sarah, his wife, he said:
And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother"'. (Genesis 20:13)
Abraham foolishly used deception rather than trusting in God, running the risk that others would commit adultery, a capital offence in the Near East, as well as potentially costing him his life.
Living by faith takes courage, determination and perseverance. There were times when Abraham leaned on natural rather than spiritual defences.
As I was meditating , on the fluctuations in Abraham’s faith, I felt a gentle whisper come and say to me, “I can do much better than that for you!”
Wonderful as Abraham’s faith was, God has an even deeper place of faith for us: a place where we find our feet are firmly embedded in the rock of faith, not just on it, and we will not walk away from that rock to seek another place of refuge when the storms of life assail us.
When facing challenging circumstances, rather than allowing faith to fizzle out, you let it take wings and sore upwards as you pray;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. (Psalm 61:2,3)
If God is opening that door to you today, don’t hesitate to walk through what seems such a narrow door, but leads to wide places of blessing and fellowship with God.
Remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity (C H Spurgeon)
Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22)
The story of Noah is one of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament. The older generation were brought up hearing it in Sunday school, in school and sometimes at home. Familiarity with stories such as these can cause us to read over them with haste, not taking time to think as we read, not appreciating what actually happened.
Noah lived many hundreds of miles from any large body of water. He would not have known what it was to stand at the ocean’s shore, viewing water stretching as far as the eye could see. Did he even know that oceans existed? Yet, when God spoke to him, asking him to build an ark which, in today’s terms would be seven stories high and one and a half football fields in length, we read that:
"Noah did all that the Lord commanded him." (Genesis 7:5)
This act of obedience and faith can often be under appreciated. One writer once said,
“We need to be fully aware that Noah's salvation was ultimately God's doing, but we should also thoroughly and thoughtfully consider that Noah was fully involved with God in carrying out all that God told him to do.”
This means that Noah had made a deliberate decision, gigantic in proportion and seeming preposterous as it was, to obey God. Obedience was paramount in his life. As Spurgeon said:
“Obedience is the highest practical courage.”
As we read though scripture, the importance of obedience is reiterated.
Obedience and victory go hand in hand.
This year shall we make a commitment to start as we mean to go on? Shall we decide to obey God in 2023, resolving todemonstrate the ‘highest practical courage’. Let us remember and put into practice the words of Mary to the servants at the Wedding Feast of Cana in John 2:5:
““Whatever He says to you, do it.”
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