Genesis 42:6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
Some things take a while to complete: making a fine wine, learning to play the piano, potty training, a delicious meal cooked to perfection. We don’t like to wait, do we? We like the drive-thru, the microwave, and the credit card. These things give us results now! You want it? You can have it and you can have it now. That’s what we crave, but it’s not always what is best… especially when it comes to the things of God. Sometimes we simply have to wait.
Joseph had to wait, too. As a young man, he started having some crazy dreams. He saw his brothers bowing down to him in the form of bales of hay. “Hay bro, I had this dream….” Awkward. It WAS awkward. While Joseph had deposited in his heart the promise that his brothers would bow to him, his brothers weren’t down with it. So they sold him into slavery. Oops, that didn’t really work that well. I wonder what was going through Joseph’s mind as he was carried away into slavery. I wonder if he thought about those dreams as he was thrown in prison. Where are the promises now, God?
The thing is, those dreams did come true. Many, many years later, his brothers bowed at his feet. But the dream didn’t turn out exactly like he may have thought. As a young boy, it seemed as though he was going to have the opportunity to lord his power over them. He would be magnificent! They would serve him and do his bidding. But on this day, he would use his power to help them. They bowed because they needed saving and he was the man for the job.
The things of God are not like the things of this world. God isn’t all that interested in microwaves and drive-thru windows. He doesn’t get impatient and pull out His credit card. He doesn’t wonder what He is doing when things aren’t happening RIGHT NOW. So why do we? If we were to set our hearts on His and trust that He has a plan, we might have some peace. If we would recognize that His ways are not ours, it’s possible that we could be okay if His promise is a long time coming.
*God hasn’t abandoned you or forgotten you. Some things simply take time, so press in to Him while you wait!
Genesis 16:1-2 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
Um, does this seem like a bad idea to anyone besides me? Here’s the deal: God promised Abram that he would give him more descendants than he could count. Now naturally, you would need at least one child to get that process started. Sarai’s clock was ticking and it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen. Maybe God forgot what He had said. Maybe He was just messing with us. We better take matters into our own hands, just in case God doesn’t come through. Ya, not the best faith filled strategy.
Let’s say that God promised you financial freedom. Now it’s been two months since He gave you that word, yet nothing seems to be happening. You are still stuck in the same dead end job. The bills keep piling up and the car broke down. Like Abram and Sarai, you wonder if God forgot about His promise. Maybe He didn’t really mean it. So you decide that God needs some help with the delivery. You daily begin purchasing lottery tickets and keep on losing. Then one day it happens. You win $1,000. It wasn’t the million you were hoping for, but it will do.
That’s essentially what Abram and Sarai did with God’s promise. They didn’t see a result, so they took matters into their own hands. Listen: God doesn’t need your help to make His promise happen. He probably just needs your patience. God knew what He had in store for Abram and Sarai; they just didn’t want to wait for it. I wonder sometimes if we treat His promises in the same way. I wonder if we grow weary of waiting and take matters into our own hands. Ishmael is cool and all… but I think we should wait for Isaac. After all, HE was God’s true promise.
*When God gives you a promise, do you wait for it or take matters into your own hands?
Genesis 14:22-23 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’
We live in a world that thrives on instant gratification. Why wait? You can have it now! Do you want that new house, new car, new phone, new shirt, and new TV? No money, no problem. Just charge it! Are you hungry for dinner? Don’t take hours to prepare one at home; go through the drive thru and it will be ready in less than three minutes. Do you want a new life and a new wife? Don’t try to work it out; just divorce the current one and move on to where your heart leads. If you you want it, you can have it… and you can have it NOW! That’s the way of this world. We don’t wait anymore.
Not Abraham. He knew there was a great promise coming. He knew that God had promised him something so great, it was worth waiting for. He would have the wealth of many nations and would set the world record for number of descendants. Yes, riches would someday come his way. So when the king of Sodom offered him great wealth, he had the foresight to turn it down: “I know that my promise is coming. And when it does, I don’t want anyone getting credit for it besides God!” What wisdom is this! Abraham knew that God would take care of him. He knew that the riches from God are greater than the riches from man.
What riches are we settling for? You see, sometimes we need to turn down what seems good now so that we can receive what is great later. Only God can bring true riches. He alone can bring healing, peace, joy, love, and restoration. Yet we look to so many people and places for solutions. And when HE comes through, we don’t even recognize that He was the one who did it! Abraham didn’t take his chances. He just turned down the riches now so that God would have more glory when the real reward came.
*Are you settling for the current riches of Sodom or believing for the future riches of God?
Zechariah 6:15 “Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the LORD, and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the LORD your God.”
But God, I thought you said ________. Didn’t you promise ________? It seems like sometimes God shares with us, His plans for our life. He gives us a word, a promise, something to stand on. We are filled with hope and overwhelmed that the God of the universe would reach down and speak to us. We leave His presence full of life and excited about what He is going to do. But then we often wait. We wait for His timing. We wait for something to happen. He said He would do this, so why isn’t it happening? There may be many reasons why, including His perfect timing. But let me throw out another suggestion that we find in Zechariah 6:15.
“This will happen if you diligently obey the LORD your God.” What!? I have to do my part? We get all excited about the promise, don’t we? For Zechariah, it was the promise that people from far away will come and build the temple. That’s really cool. I like that idea. But it will happen IF you diligently obey the Lord. It’s like there’s a condition on the promise. Now before you say, “that’s not fair” let me tell you about “not fair.” Not fair is that I sinned, but Jesus died. Not fair is that God loves me unconditionally but I am fickle. Not fair is that God makes a promise but I don’t do my part.
If we are going to live according to His promise, we would do good to obey His commands. This is a relationship, not a vending machine. We can’t just put our prayers in the slot and expect a spiritual candy bar to come out. God desires to have real relationship with us. Friends, if we are going to live in that relationship, we need to do our part. And our part is often obedience. It’s unreasonable to ask God to hold up His side of the relationship and not hold up ours. We need to obey; we need to surrender. Maybe the problem isn’t that God is unfair. Maybe, just maybe… the problem is on our end.
*Is your life marked by obedience to God? In what areas do you need to do a better job of obeying?
Jonah 2:8-9 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
We can all appreciate someone who does what they say they are going to do. Empty promises are frustrating. “I forgot” is too. But people let us down, don’t they? What’s wrong with those people? Why can’t they keep their word? I mean, it’s not all that hard to be somewhere you said you would be. It can’t be that difficult to finish the task you said would get done. It’s easy to say these things about others, isn’t it?
I certainly don’t like to say these things about myself. But as Jonah was hanging out inside of a giant fish, he offered this prayer to the Lord: “What I have vowed I will make good.” For Jonah that meant going to Nineveh and preaching. It meant obeying God rather than running from him. Good for Jonah. He was finally ready to face his fears, his laziness, his frustrations, and do what God had asked of him.
“What I have vowed I will make good.” What have I vowed to the Lord? I said I would make Him Lord of my life. I promised a whole lot of times that I would stop sinning. I have committed to spending more time with Him – in the Word and in prayer. I told Him I would strive to be a better husband and father. I vowed that He would be the center of my life. Am I making good on my vows? Do my heart, will, mind, and emotions follow through with what my mouth said? Maybe there are some things I still need to make good on. Thanks, Jonah, for that word today. Apparently I needed the reminder.
Judges 11:1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute.
Okay now, I don’t really know what to say about this chapter today. Quite frankly, I didn’t like it. Well, that’s not really true, but the end result wasn’t very fairy tale if you know what I mean. Here’s the scenario: You’ve got this guy Jephthah. It seems that it was worth mentioning that his mother was a prostitute. So for obvious reasons, he is shunned from the rest of his family. Things get rough, however, and they come find him and ask for his help. The Spirit of the Lord comes on him and he does some pretty good damage on the enemy. This I like. I like the fact that God isn’t really concerned with where we came from. He is concerned with where we are going. And that was almost enough for me today. I wanted to write all about that. But I just couldn’t avoid the content of the rest of the chapter.
You see, Jephthah makes a vow before God that he will sacrifice whatever comes out his door when he returns home from his victory. Now I am not sure what he was hoping for, maybe a sheep or one of his wives. Regardless, it’s a really strange vow to make. Low and behold, his only child comes out the door. He’s pretty torn up about it too. The last thing he wants to do is kill his daughter. He let’s her go dance in the hills for a couple of months, but then he does it. The crazy thing is this: nowhere do I see God asking him to do this. Instead, he made a vow and stuck to it. And to me that is frustrating. Now I am a man of my word, so I get the inner conflict. But maybe be a little more careful with what you are promising here.
So what can I get out of this? There are two things that this brought to mind. The first is this: when you make a stupid commitment, why not ask for mercy? I don’t really understand why he didn’t go to God and ask for release from this promise. I can’t imagine that God really wanted him to kill his daughter. So why didn’t he get on his knees before God and beg for mercy? Why not tell God that he messed up? I see Moses and Joshua both pleading before God. God’s pretty merciful in that way. That I just don’t understand. I think we can get the same way. We stick to our guns out of principle without asking God for help. Even Jesus asked God to pass the cup from Him. Now in that case, God didn’t – but at least He asked. Maybe sometimes we need to ask God if we can be released for the stupid thing we got ourselves into.
Secondly, I think we need to take seriously the things we are saying to God. We sing worship songs that say, God I lay down my life. Do we mean it? We pray prayers telling God we will do anything, go anywhere. Will we? We need to think about what we are saying before we say it. Let’s be ready to follow through with what we promised we would do. And I guess I can admire Jephthah’s character when it comes to that. He was willing to do a really hard thing. Maybe, just maybe, we should take God seriously too. Or better yet, maybe we should live a life that God can take seriously. After all, we can count on His promises to us, but can He count on our promises to Him?