Bible Passages: Genesis 20-21, Psalm 10, Proverbs 22, and Matthew 8:1-22
Abraham has just passed several faith tests in the previous chapters, but he is confronted with another problem. Will he respond in faith when he encounters another situation like that of Pharaoh (see chapters twelve) seeking Sarah as his wife? Abraham must choose between God’s protection and his own protection. Abraham chooses to rely on his own means of protection, so he tells king Abimelech that Sarah is just his sister and not his wife.
At this point, Abraham has jeopardized the promise of God, and it is God that must step in and fix the problem. Abraham was unable to protect himself and the promise of God, so, God steps in to fix the problem. God visited Abimelech in a dream telling him he was going to die. Abimelech responded to God by pleading for his life and arguing his innocence. God listened to Abimelech’s argument and agreed, but God still put the ball in Abimelech’s court. Abimelech had to obey God if he wanted to live. Would Abimelech be able to do what Abraham could not? Abimelech took God at his word and let Abraham and Sarah go. In addition, he sent Abraham and Sarah on their way with monetary gifts to prove that he was innocent and he desired to remain innocent.
When you contrast Abimelech and Abraham, the faith of Abimelech is surprising when compared to the lack of faith of Abraham. Abraham has benefited from the extended experience of the presence of God in his life; yet, it is Abimelech that acts in an honorable way. Clearly, Abraham has not learned to completely rely on God and his promises for his health and happiness. The question still remains whether Abraham will make a fitting covenant partner. Can Abraham obey God in simple faith? Up to this point, the answer is no.
Genesis 21 transitions from Abraham’s lack of faith to Abraham’s receiving of the promised heir. Even though Abraham is a non-deserving covenant partner, God blesses him with the Son of Promise. Isaac is born, and he is the fulfillment of God’s promise given in Genesis 12 ( reiterated in Genesis 15 and 18). Both Abraham and Sarah seem to have learned their faith lessons, and are relying on God completely. They obediently keep the law in all the ways that God has commanded them. Not only did God come true on his promises towards Isaac, but he also came true on his promises given to Hagar and Ishmael.
Genesis 21:8-21 tells us of the provision and protection that God gave to Hagar and Ishmael. In this story, Sarah again doubts the provision of God and sought to provide by herself for the inheritance of Isaac. She responded to Ishmael’s mockery of Isaac by having him sent away. Abraham by God’s leading followed Sarah’s request. Here again, we see the promise of God to Abraham and to Hagar and Ishmael threatened. However, God would step in and provide the protection that Hagar and Ishmael needed. Genesis 21 ends with these looming questions: Can Abraham and Sarah pass a test of faith? Are they appropriate covenant partners for God?
God will come through on his promises. Our responsibility is to merely trust him. We get into trouble when we try to take control of our own lives and forget the power and provision of God. All too often, we act more like Abraham and Sarah in their disobedience. The call from this passage is the same call from the rest of Abraham and Sarah’s life. Trust God and he will take care of you. He will come through on his promises.
Psalm 10 calls attention to the actions and attitudes of the unrighteous. First, it reveals the godless actions of the unrighteous. They do all manner of wickedness and seem to get no punishment. The psalmist begins by asking these two questions: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Then, the psalmist reveals examples of the evil actions of the unrighteous. It appears to the psalmist that the unrighteous are getting by with their abuse of the poor, their greed, their pride, and all manner of other things. The heart attitudes of the unrighteous are revealed by their own thoughts, “there is no God.” The unrighteous live in light of the fact that they do not think they will ever have to give an account.
In the second part, the Psalmist turns to the realization that God is righteous and he will come to the aid of the weak. He will also judge the wicked. The psalmist goes from seeking the Lord’s action on behalf of those misused to resting in the fact that God will have the last word. No sin will go unpunished and no abuse will be swept under the rug. As the Psalmist says, “call his wickedness to account till you find none.” Psalm 10 moves from questions to comfort.
Sometime, one might be tempted to question God’s wisdom and justice due to the perceived ease at which the wicked live their lives. Some days it does not seem that God will ever punish the wicked; then, when one observes the lives of the righteous no peace can be found. It does not seem fair and in reality it may not be fair at the time. However, Psalm 10 points us to the fact that God will have the last word. He will stand up and defend the fatherless and the widowed. He will comfort the helpless. He will embrace the downtrodden. He will also judge the wicked. Psalm ten reminds us of the punishment of sin and the goodness of God.
Proverbs 22:1 is a great word: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” Our culture values success at all costs. Rarely are the downtrodden considered as the successful person steps over them. However, Proverbs 22:1 reminds us that our actions mean something. We are to live our lives knowing that our actions enhance or detract from our reputation and our reputation is important. Proverbs 22:1 reminds us that we live on this planet with other human beings that are valuable. We are not to just trample over them to make a buck or get recognition. Instead, we are to consider our actions and live a life of character. We are to treat people with the respect that they deserve.
Proverbs 22:4 also gives one something to think about. If riches and honor are what we desire, then we are to be humble and fear the Lord. God gives us a recipe to gain riches and honor and it is to live in light of an authoritative God. So, how we live and our attitude towards God is important and can either render wealth or poverty.
Be careful to not get caught up in the race to the top and forget that there are human beings living around us. God urges us to seek a good name and favor instead of wealth and power. The point is to live life circumspectly – aware of our surroundings and aware of our God. Proverbs 22:4 builds on this idea. In God’s economy, there is only one way to get wealth and prestige and that his through humility and fear of the Lord. So, test God and see: Will he bless you if you live a humble life devoted to the fear of the Lord? I think he will.
Matthew 8 follows directly after the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has just finished instructing his followers on how to live a godly life of obedience. First, Jesus encounters a leper who had great faith. The leper came to Jesus and openly declared Jesus’ ability to heal him. Jesus healed this man after his display of great faith. The leper illustrates what someone of faith looks like – a person who believes in the power of God.
Second, Matthew uses the story of the Centurion to illustrate again what true faith looks like. The Centurion understood the type of power Jesus wielded. The Centurion, too, was a man of power and he knew that his soldiers would obey his every command. In the eyes of this man, Jesus wielded this same power over disease and sickness. The Centurion comes to Jesus and asks him to merely speak the word so his son can be healed. Jesus heals the Centurion’s son and comments to his followers concerning his great faith.
Third, Matthew reiterates Jesus’ authority over sickness and disease. Those who were sick could come to Jesus in faith that their diseases would be healed. Jesus has the power over disease; the question is, Do people trust him?
Fourth, Matthew illustrates the immense cost of following Jesus. Jesus was a man that had no home and no possessions. Yet, he was the ruler of the universe. His earthly ministry was a lonely ministry that was rot with misunderstanding; however, his kingly rule will be an entirely different story. The call to follow Jesus is to forsake all your earthly things and your relationships to gain something that is far more priceless and that is a relationship with God the creator of the universe. In obtaining a relationship with him, then you will inherit all the things you think you are giving up.
Jesus calls us to a life of faith. We are to take him at his word and live in light of our belief in him. The leper was able to put his own fear and doubts away and seek healing from Jesus. The Centurion was able to put away his own fear of humiliation and he sought help from the only one who could help his son. Jesus is the means of victory over the things in life that hold us captive. However, we have to embrace Jesus through simple faith. We cannot hold on to earthly treasure or relationships, but we have to embrace Jesus so that we gain these temporal blessings.