Category Archives: Protector / Deliverer

Afraid and Distressed, Jacob Turns Humbly to God

In Genesis 32:1-23 we continue on our journey with Jacob as he grows in relationship and trust with God. He is obeying God’s direction to return home, trusting in God despite his fear of Esau, who had been plotting to kill Jacob a long time ago when Jacob left.

      1Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. 2Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim.

      3Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; 5I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.”’”

      6The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; 8for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.”

      9Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11“Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12“For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’”

      13So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: 14two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16He delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.” 17He commanded the one in front, saying, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?’ 18then you shall say, ‘These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.’” 19Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, “After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; 20and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp.

      22Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.

How wonderful that God sent angels to encourage Jacob. That must have been quite some boost to his spirit… and he may have needed that reassurance from God when he heard that Esau was coming with 400 men to meet him. Surely Jacob remembered that Esau was plotting to kill him when he left, many years ago. They were not on good terms. Jacob clearly splits his group into multiple groups anticipating this possibility. He also puts in place a diplomatic strategy to help his relations with Esau… sending messengers, and gifts ahead of him, declaring he is Esau’s servant.

However, the most important part of the strategy for a righteous person is the prayer. Jacob, in his time of great anxiety, comes humbly before God with praise and thanksgiving, reminding himself of God’s promises and instruction, and asking God to protect him as he obeys God’s instruction to return home to a likely hostile and powerful brother. Jacob continues, faithful to God, despite his concerns.

We should take careful note that Jacob handles this situation as he did managing the flocks over the past 20 years. He comes humbly before God, asking help and protection and listening for instruction… obeying what God commands. Then he combines that with hard work, good strategy, and his own best efforts. He is not lazy, simply putting God to the test and saying God will take care of it all. Rather, Jacob prays for God to act and then does his own personal best to address the situation, trusting God to support Him.

We should model our own walk with God after this pattern. We should absolutely rely on God but also put forth our own hard work and good planning to accomplish what He tells us to do. We should do our part and trust God to bless it.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

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The Covenant At Mizpah

In Genesis 31, Jacob has taken his family and belongings and left his uncle Laban secretly. Laban was angry and chased Jacob, but heard from God prior to catching up to Jacob. After some heated exchange between Laban and Jacob, we pick up our reading through Genesis with Genesis 31:43-55. Laban and Jacob come to a peaceful settling of their differences. God was behind it all, speaking to each of them separately and continuing to keep His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by guiding and caring for Jacob. Jacob also continues to submit to and honor God.

43Then Laban replied to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? 44“So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.” 45Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore it was named Galeed, 49and Mizpah, for he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other. 50“If you mistreat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.” 51Laban said to Jacob, “Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. 52“This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53“The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. 54Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. 55Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

We can trust God to keep His promises! God made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and He acts in order to keep them. Genesis 31 is one example of this as God delivers Jacob safely from Laban’s anger and pursuit. Jacob was not perfect. Jacob made many mistakes in leading his family for God, but Jacob was submitting to God and God honors that submission. God continued to bless and protect Jacob over 20 years of living with Laban and delivered him safely out of that part of his life with much wealth and family.

That does not mean that Jacob had an easy time…quite the opposite, he was still living with the consequences within his family for mistakes he made and he still had to deal with Laban’s efforts to cheat him and he was in this difficult situation for 20 years. But, God kept His promises in His way and His timing.

Similarly, we can trust in the promises of God in our lives, even when we can not see God working. Each of us should seek always to be growing closer to God through prayer and study of scripture. We start with accepting the offer of reconciliation with God for our sins that is offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you have not yet made the decision to make Jesus Christ your Lord and savior, or if you want to recommit yourself to Christ… I encourage you to do so today, right now. (Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.) Once you have made this decision, do not get complacent… for this is but the gateway to begin your lifelong journey as a follower of Jesus!

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

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Laban Pursues Jacob

Genesis 31:22-42 continues after Jacob has fled Laban in secret earlier in Genesis 31, taking His family and livestock with Him. Rachel, stole from her father the household idols to bring with her. When Laban realizes Jacob has left, he pursues him with anger. But God is with Jacob and comes to Laban in a dream to protect Jacob.

      22When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, 23then he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead. 24God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.”

      25Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead. 26Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done by deceiving me and carrying away my daughters like captives of the sword? 27“Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; 28and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters? Now you have done foolishly. 29“It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.’ 30“Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods?” 31Then Jacob replied to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. 32“The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.

      33So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find them. 35She said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.” So he searched but did not find the household idols.

      36Then Jacob became angry and contended with Laban; and Jacob said to Laban, “What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me? 37“Though you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two. 38“These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks. 39“That which was torn of beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself. You required it of my hand whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40Thus I was: by day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41“These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, and you changed my wages ten times. 42“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.”

Perhaps one of the first things to note, is that God is perfectly able to communicate through non believers, such as Laban. He appears to Laban in a dream in order to protect Jacob. We know Laban was not a man of God by his behaviors such as deceiving Jacob and then trying to cheat him by changing his agreed wages repeatedly… and of course by the fact that Laban clutches tightly to his household  idols.  Additionally, Laban refers to God as the God of Jacob’s father, not his own God or even just “God”.

We see, also, that though Laban is quick to deceive others, he does not like to be deceived. This is typical hypocritical behavior for those who are focused on themselves rather than fundamental principles or truths of right and wrong. Every situation is interpreted not against God’s holy standard, but rather against the flawed view of “How does it affect me?” Godly people are called to be different from this behavior, measuring right and wrong against God’s holy standard revealed in scripture.

As a man continuing on his walk toward righteousness, Jacob strongly agrees that  whomever stole from Laban should be punished. Jacob wanted nothing to do with the idols anyway as they are detestable to God. Jacob did not make excuses when confronted by Laban. He clearly stated why he left  secretly and made no excuse for someone stealing.

Rachel, clutching to idols instead of God or even husband, comes up with clever deception to avoid being caught at this time. A family raised by deceitful and wicked parents becomes quite good at being wicked. This type of cleverness is not to be admired.

Having given Laban time to look for his idols, Jacob then rebukes Laban for chasing him and for several other ways in which Laban has wrongly treated Jacob. Jacob highlights that his service has been righteous and honorable even when Laban was not. Both Jacob and Laban prospered from it. Best of all, Jacob honors God by recognizing and proclaiming His role in protecting Jacob and his family in this difficult twenty years.

For those of us today, who are going through difficult family situations or even situations in life not related to family specifically, keep in mind that God can be with you even in tough situations. He never promises to protect you from suffering and make life easy. Quite the contrary, those who serve Him the most often have quite difficult lives with a  lot of earthly pain and suffering, but still find joy in the Lord and in the hope of what is to come after death.

When you find yourself in difficult times, it is then that you must draw nearer to Him, not pull away. Seek Him more earnestly both in study of scripture and in prayer. Change your ways from the path of sin to the path of righteous obedience and submission to God. Do not just look for a “quick fix” to your situation. Trust God. Ask Him for help. God is able to provide and protect according to His will.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

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The Lord Is My Rock, In Whom I Find Protection

Psalm 18 is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He sang this song to God on the day God rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. This psalm encourages us that we can count on God’s help to overcome those who persecute us. The victory will not always be with a sword, but sometimes it will be and we will need to wield it properly to defend ourselves and God will help us. We can find refuge in the Lord.

I love you, Lord;
    you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
    my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
    and my place of safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and he saved me from my enemies.

The ropes of death entangled me;
    floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave[a] wrapped its ropes around me;
    death laid a trap in my path.
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
    yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
    my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth quaked and trembled.
    The foundations of the mountains shook;
    they quaked because of his anger.
Smoke poured from his nostrils;
    fierce flames leaped from his mouth.
    Glowing coals blazed forth from him.
He opened the heavens and came down;
    dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
10 Mounted on a mighty angelic being,[b] he flew,
    soaring on the wings of the wind.
11 He shrouded himself in darkness,
    veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.
12 Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him
    and rained down hail and burning coals.[c]
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded
    amid the hail and burning coals.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies;
    great bolts of lightning flashed, and they were confused.
15 Then at your command, O Lord,
    at the blast of your breath,
the bottom of the sea could be seen,
    and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.

16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
    from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
    but the Lord supported me.
19 He led me to a place of safety;
    he rescued me because he delights in me.
20 The Lord rewarded me for doing right;
    he restored me because of my innocence.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
    I have not turned from my God to follow evil.
22 I have followed all his regulations;
    I have never abandoned his decrees.
23 I am blameless before God;
    I have kept myself from sin.
24 The Lord rewarded me for doing right.
    He has seen my innocence.

25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful;
    to those with integrity you show integrity.
26 To the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.
27 You rescue the humble,
    but you humiliate the proud.
28 You light a lamp for me.
    The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
29 In your strength I can crush an army;
    with my God I can scale any wall.

30 God’s way is perfect.
    All the Lord’s promises prove true.
    He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
31 For who is God except the Lord?
    Who but our God is a solid rock?
32 God arms me with strength,
    and he makes my way perfect.
33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
35 You have given me your shield of victory.
    Your right hand supports me;
    your help[d] has made me great.
36 You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping.

37 I chased my enemies and caught them;
    I did not stop until they were conquered.
38 I struck them down so they could not get up;
    they fell beneath my feet.
39 You have armed me with strength for the battle;
    you have subdued my enemies under my feet.
40 You placed my foot on their necks.
    I have destroyed all who hated me.
41 They called for help, but no one came to their rescue.
    They even cried to the Lord, but he refused to answer.
42 I ground them as fine as dust in the wind.
    I swept them into the gutter like dirt.
43 You gave me victory over my accusers.
    You appointed me ruler over nations;
    people I don’t even know now serve me.
44 As soon as they hear of me, they submit;
    foreign nations cringe before me.
45 They all lose their courage
    and come trembling from their strongholds.

46 The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock!
    May the God of my salvation be exalted!
47 He is the God who pays back those who harm me;
    he subdues the nations under me
48     and rescues me from my enemies.
You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies;
    you save me from violent opponents.
49 For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations;
    I will sing praises to your name.
50 You give great victories to your king;
    you show unfailing love to your anointed,
    to David and all his descendants forever.

It is obvious that David experienced real persecution and fear for his life. Yet still he tried to live according to God’s instruction. He refused to reject God. I am greatly encouraged by David in that he consistently turned to God at his lowest and most difficult times in his life. His faith was greatest when his situation was most urgent.

Many of us face true persecution or other trials and difficulties. We must never turn away from God because of our circumstances lest we perish, but when we trust in Him and serve Him we will not perish even should we lose the earthly battle. God made a way for us to be reconciled with Him through the death of Jesus Christ. When we accept Jesus as Lord and savior, believe He died for us, was buried, and rose again, and repent from our sins asking God to come into our hearts as Lord we find salvation through Christ.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

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O Lord, Hear My Plea for Justice. Listen To My Cry For Help.

Psalm 17 contains another faithful  and heartfelt prayer from David to God. David had enemies that were stronger than him, but turned to God and relied on Him for protection. David had many times in his life when he fought his enemies, but he also relied heavily on prayer and on God.

O Lord, hear my plea for justice.
    Listen to my cry for help.
Pay attention to my prayer,
    for it comes from honest lips.
Declare me innocent,
    for you see those who do right.

You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night.
    You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong.
    I am determined not to sin in what I say.
I have followed your commands,
    which keep me from following cruel and evil people.
My steps have stayed on your path;
    I have not wavered from following you.

I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God.
    Bend down and listen as I pray.
Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.
    By your mighty power you rescue
    those who seek refuge from their enemies.
Guard me as you would guard your own eyes.[a]
    Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Protect me from wicked people who attack me,
    from murderous enemies who surround me.
10 They are without pity.
    Listen to their boasting!
11 They track me down and surround me,
    watching for the chance to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like hungry lions, eager to tear me apart—
    like young lions hiding in ambush.

13 Arise, O Lord!
    Stand against them, and bring them to their knees!
    Rescue me from the wicked with your sword!
14 By the power of your hand, O Lord,
    destroy those who look to this world for their reward.
But satisfy the hunger of your treasured ones.
    May their children have plenty,
    leaving an inheritance for their descendants.
15 Because I am righteous, I will see you.
    When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.

David’s prayer is as relevant today as it was when he first prayed it. There is much wickedness and evil throughout the world today, as in days long ago. The face of wickedness and evil may change, but the true enemy remains Satan and the failure of people to recognize and submit to the one, true God.

I invite you to pray with me…

God, please stand against the evil around the world and bring them to their knees. Rescue the righteous from the hands of the wicked. Open my eyes, ears, and heart to listen to your guidance for how you want me to make a difference in defeating evil and protecting the righteous. In all things, not my will but your will be done.  Amen.

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I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!”

I always find the Psalms of David encouraging. He truly was a man after God’s own heart. Even in difficulty and suffering he sought refuge in God and found peace, hope, and reason to rejoice.  Psalm 16 is no exception.

Keep me safe, O God,
    for I have come to you for refuge.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
    Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
    are my true heroes!
    I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
    I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
    or even speak the names of their gods.

Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
    You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
    What a wonderful inheritance!

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.[b]
    My body rests in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead[c]
    or allow your holy one[d] to rot in the grave.
11 You will show me the way of life,
    granting me the joy of your presence
    and the pleasures of living with you forever.

David begins with a request for God to keep him safe and provide refuge. This beginning gives us insight that once again David was in need of protection and turned to God.

The next statement is  powerful. David exclaims that God is his master and give credit to God for all good things. Then he takes time to appreciate and focus on the godly people in the land. He takes pleasure in them!

By contrast, David rightly declares that he will not be part of worship and practices of false gods and idols. He refuses even to speak the name of their false gods.

David is content and thankful for what God has given him. He looks only to God for provision and seeks to bless God in return. He seeks and accepts God’s instruction and guidance. He takes courage in knowing God is with him through difficult times.

David finds peace and rest in submitting to and serving God. He confidently proclaims the promise of God for eternity with God and finds great joy in this! David clearly understood the existence of the soul of each individual and how it may go to be with God when the body dies for those who submit to and serve God.

I am striving to personally model the heart that David showed toward God, even in difficulty and suffering. I am not there yet, but am on the right track. The more time I spend studying God’s word, seeking Him in prayer, and submitting my life to serve Him and follow His instructions the closer I get. I still have a long way to go, but praise God for showing me the path to follow!

I encourage each of you to take on that same challenge… seek God’s help for refuge and security, follow His instruction, remain separate from worship of false gods, find courage and peace and rejoice in knowing the Lord our God even in difficult times!

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Only Fools Say In Their Hearts “There is no God”

I am truly inspired by the faith and hope that David had in God even when he was experiencing grief and suffering or witnessing evil. Psalm 14 shows David relying on God even while he sees the wickedness and evil in abundance around him.

Only fools say in their hearts,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.[a]
No one does good,
    not a single one!

Will those who do evil never learn?
    They eat up my people like bread
    and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.
Terror will grip them,
    for God is with those who obey him.
The wicked frustrate the plans of the oppressed,
    but the Lord will protect his people.

Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel?
    When the Lord restores his people,
    Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.

David reminds us that only fools deny God’s existence. Creation itself cries out in testimony to the Creator. And those who insist there is no God then tend to lean on their own sin nature to guide them, which leads to corruption, selfishness, and all kinds of evil.

Some who reject God may seem to be respectful of life and help other people. But if you really dig into what drives them it is often the Christian beliefs that have so widely affected much of the world view for centuries. They will not even recognize its origins in Christianity.

As an example… someone who believes in Darwinian evolution instead of creation with man created in the image of God really has no logical position to explain why we should help others or why we should not be okay with killing one another. The strong survive, right?  We are not special as humans, we are just “evolved” animals, right? Helping the weak and those in need is not a survival advantage consistent with evolutionary theory. Hitler conducting horrible mass executions, on the other hand… actually that is consistent with evolutionary theory. Evolutionary ideas played an important role in influencing Hitler as he tried to create the “master race”.

Even as we witness great suffering and evil around us and around the world, we can be encouraged that God will restore His people in His timing and His method. We can have faith and hope that God is in control and will protect us… will stand with us. Sometimes it is hard to see it as people are suffering such as those being executed for their faith in Jesus Christ but we can trust the promises of God. The righteous who accept Jesus as lord will find rest with God after they pass through this life. The wicked will find an eternity without God in hell.

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Sing to the Lord, Even In Suffering

Psalm 13 is a wonderful demonstration of praising God even in our suffering, and calling out to Him for protection and help instead of relying solely on ourselves.

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

I strive to live out this example in my personal life. Praising God and trusting in Him even in the midst of difficult times or when things seem to be going wrong.  I am truly inspired by the closing verse  given the context of unresolved suffering.

“I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.”

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Evil Is Praised Throughout The Land

I often hear that the world is worse than it has ever been before and is degrading to new levels of wickedness and rejection of God. Though many parts of the world clearly reject God and do indeed to be in a period of decline and shift further away from Him, scripture reminds us that the world has always been full of wicked people.

Consider Genesis 6:5-9,

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” But Noah found favor with the Lord.

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

Those who are godly have had cycles where there was revival and then periods of decline to what is essentially a righteous remnant throughout history. Psalm 12 reminds us of another time where those who follow God were grieved by the wickedness of those around them.

Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
    The faithful have vanished from the earth!
Neighbors lie to each other,
    speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.
May the Lord cut off their flattering lips
    and silence their boastful tongues.
They say, “We will lie to our hearts’ content.
    Our lips are our own—who can stop us?”

The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless,
    and I have heard the groans of the poor.
Now I will rise up to rescue them,
    as they have longed for me to do.”
The Lord’s promises are pure,
    like silver refined in a furnace,
    purified seven times over.
Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
    preserving them forever from this lying generation,
even though the wicked strut about,
    and evil is praised throughout the land.

As I read Psalm 12, my first reaction is that it may as well have been written about today in the United States of America. Evil is praised throughout the land and the wicked strut about. Every kind of sin and wickedness is tolerated or even praised, but Christians are called intolerant and pressured to be silent. I always find it ironic that those who say Christians should be tolerant of every kind of sin also refuse to tolerate our faith.

I find great comfort in God’s word and it reminds me that God is in control. I pray that true Christians around the world would rise up for their faith and live their lives like they truly serve God rather than blending in with the world. This includes electing godly leaders to political office to stop evil and work for good. When real Christians stand up for what God teaches, we will find revival and reinvigorate the body of Christ and then draw in those who may receive the good news of the gospel.

We must not be afraid to speak the truth, even when it brings controversy. We must instead follow the example of Jesus who spoke directly against sinful and wrong behavior and called people to change… to repent. If the godly are silent, evil prevails.

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Abimelech Takes Sarah From Abraham

We continue our journey with Abraham in Genesis 20, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham repeats the mistake he made previously in Egypt which resulted in his wife being taken by Pharaoh. God intervenes again this second time when Sarah is taken. What grace that our God would intervene on our behalf even when we make the same big mistake twice.

20 Abraham moved south to the Negev and lived for a while between Kadesh and Shur, and then he moved on to Gerar. While living there as a foreigner, Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, by saying, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar sent for Sarah and had her brought to him at his palace.

But that night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are a dead man, for that woman you have taken is already married!”

But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Didn’t Abraham tell me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘Yes, he is my brother.’ I acted in complete innocence! My hands are clean.”

In the dream God responded, “Yes, I know you are innocent. That’s why I kept you from sinning against me, and why I did not let you touch her. Now return the woman to her husband, and he will pray for you, for he is a prophet. Then you will live. But if you don’t return her to him, you can be sure that you and all your people will die.”

Abimelech got up early the next morning and quickly called all his servants together. When he told them what had happened, his men were terrified. Then Abimelech called for Abraham. “What have you done to us?” he demanded. “What crime have I committed that deserves treatment like this, making me and my kingdom guilty of this great sin? No one should ever do what you have done! 10 Whatever possessed you to do such a thing?”

11 Abraham replied, “I thought, ‘This is a godless place. They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.’ 12 And she really is my sister, for we both have the same father, but different mothers. And I married her. 13 When God called me to leave my father’s home and to travel from place to place, I told her, ‘Do me a favor. Wherever we go, tell the people that I am your brother.’”

14 Then Abimelech took some of his sheep and goats, cattle, and male and female servants, and he presented them to Abraham. He also returned his wife, Sarah, to him. 15 Then Abimelech said, “Look over my land and choose any place where you would like to live.” 16 And he said to Sarah, “Look, I am giving your ‘brother’ 1,000 pieces of silver[a] in the presence of all these witnesses. This is to compensate you for any wrong I may have done to you. This will settle any claim against me, and your reputation is cleared.”

17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants, so they could have children. 18 For the Lord had caused all the women to be infertile because of what happened with Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

Clearly God shows grace to Abraham and to Sarah after they repeat their earlier mistake of misrepresenting their relationship as a means of protection instead of trusting God. God then even uses the situation to bless them in both money and land. God knew Abraham genuinely wanted to follow and serve Him, but had made a mistake.

There is another point that is significant to note. It is reasonable to conclude that Abimelech did not know and serve God based on Abraham’s description of the area as ungodly. Never the less, God communicated directly with Abimelech to accomplish His will. Even non believers can hear from God when God wants them to.

It is also worth observing that there are serious consequences for not obeying God, even for someone who may not know Him well or serve Him. Abimelech chose wisely and obeyed, likely out of fear.

If God presents serious consequences for disobedience of those who do not know Him, then we can expect He holds even higher accountability for those who know Him and still refuse to obey His instructions? This does not mean we have to be perfect or without mistake. God shows us how He has grace for Abraham.  But we are expected to seek Him wholeheartedly and that should be reflected clearly in our lives.

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