Thursday, January 13, 2011

Genesis 17 & 18 - Is Anything Too Difficult for the LORD?

LINK: Genesis 17 & 18

BACKGROUND

Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, the LORD appeared to Abram and identified Himself as God Almighty - El Shaddai. This is the first time He used this name for Himself. It is used 48 times in the Old Testament with 31 of those time in the book of Job and 5 times in the book of Genesis. When used in the book of Genesis it is when He manifests Himself to the Patriarchs (Abram, Isaac in 28:3, Jacob in 35:11, 43:14, and 48:3). The context for most of this identification as El Shaddai is the covenant, "more precisely, the command for obedience and faithfulness on the part of the vassal and the promise of progeny (descendants) by God" (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). Abram was promised "seed" and "land." He would be a father of many nations, and his name was changed from Abram ("exalted father") to Abraham ("father of a multitude of nations"). It is also important to note that this covenant was everlasting.

The sign of that covenant is circumcision. Why circumcision as a sign? One thought is that it was because the "seed" promised comes out of that part of the body.

We also see the renewal of the promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah. Just a reminder: It had been 25 years since the original promise for a descendant! Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 90. Here we have, as Edith Shaeffer says in Christianity is Jewish, ". . . a picture of life coming forth abundantly from those who, humanly speaking, were already dead, not of the age to have children." See Romans 4:19 and surrounding verses for a connection with the Scarlet ThreadI have written about it in the REFLECTION.

In Genesis 18, we have the visitors to Abraham. Genesis 19:1 indicates that two of them were angels, and the third may have been the LORD himself because of the way the conversation went with the three visitors! I LOVE Abraham's hospitality: he hurried and did it all very quickly! These visitors reiterated the promise of a seed which was met by laughter from Sarah and the response from the LORD here is priceless and a key verse in this chapter, "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?" 

REFLECTION

The words from the LORD to Sarah and Abraham ring in my head over and over:

"Is anything too difficult for the LORD?"

The way I answer that question has so much to do with what I think about God. Do I really believe His promises? Can I say AMEN to Paul's assertion about Abraham in Romans 4:18-21?

In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, 'So SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.' Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised. He was able also to perform.

I had my own little "laugh" about God's ability once when I was at a training program at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon back in 1981. Every morning, all the people in the program had half an hour to spend time with God.

One particular morning, I was up in a spartan attic bedroom in one of the rental houses near campus peering out the window located at the peak of the roof. It was summer, but, not unusual for Oregon in June, it was raining cats and dogs. My passage for that morning was Mark 9, where the man brings his demon-possessed boy to Jesus to heal. After some dialogue with Jesus, the boy's father said to Jesus:

"If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"
Jesus responds:
"'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

Then Jesus drove out the demon.

I sat there in that attic bedroom, and I audibly laughed and said, "I don't believe this really happened, Lord! In fact, I don't believe you turned water into wine either or healed all those people. I don't believe it!!!!! It is too impossible."

Then, I realized the import of my words, and I cried out to God, "I want to be like that man. I do believe Lord, but my faith is so small, help my unbelief! Lord, could you show me Yourself by stopping the rain?" (I know, what was I thinking to pray such a crazy prayer in OREGON of all places? But he allowed a 90 year old woman to get pregnant. So, why not?)

Immediately, and I mean IMMEDIATELY, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun beamed through that window blinding my eyes, and I said, "OK, I believe it all." It was a defining moment in my journey.

APPLICATION

Is anything too difficult for the LORD (18:14)? What is your deep down answer to that question? Journal and talk with the LORD about it today. Mull over this question for a while. Be honest with your answer. 

There is a chapter called "Overcoming Unbelief" in Praying God's Word by Beth Moore that is excellent.

PRAYER

Ah Lord God, behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult to You (Jeremiah 32:17). We praise You as El Shaddai, God Almighty. We praise You for Your great power. Lord, we do believe. Help us in our areas of unbelief. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
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