Do you ever find yourself trying to help God out just a little? You believe He’s going to answer some prayer, but you keep trying to figure out how, and pretty soon, you’re trying to orchestrate one of those possibilities. Abram and Sarai had been given a great promise, but years had passed with no answer in sight and they took matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, just as it does in our lives, it led to all kinds of problems and revealed some things about their hearts.
In the process, they needed some reassurance from God. How about you? Do you need reassurance today … of His faithfulness, His goodness, or His trustworthiness?
We’ll also look at polygamy, a great passage on worry, God’s mercy and His wisdom for the upright.
Genesis 15 & 16
When You Need Reassurance from God
Genesis 15 & 16:
Helping God Out
When God called Abram (Abraham) to leave his homeland, He told him that He would make a great nation from his descendants, But here in chapter 15, Abram is starting to wonder:
2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”
Have you ever felt that way? You thought God was going to do something (restore your marriage, save your spouse, bring back a prodigal, change your financial situation, …), but nothing has happened. Maybe you feel discouraged. Maybe you’re starting to wonder about God faithfulness or His goodness toward you. Maybe you think you’re doing something wrong. Maybe you don’t pray right. Maybe God’s Word isn’t true.
God didn’t rebuke Abram. Instead, He patiently reassured him that He would keep His promise.
4 … “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
Do you need reassurance today … of His faithfulness, goodness, or trustworthiness?
God can do that, in part, through creation. Maybe you need to go outside on a clear night and look up. Look at the wonder and the bigness of our God. Look at the beauty of His creation. Allow yourself to feel small in comparison to our all-powerful God.
But for believers, God wants to speak to us primarily through Jesus Christ and His Word. Notice verse 6:
And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
He believed God. He believed what He could not see … that he would have a son when it looked impossible.
As this new year takes off, I don’t know what in your life looks impossible. Your marriage. Ever getting married. Your child. Your spouse. Your weight. Your finances.
I can’t promise that God will work the way that seems right to you or on your timetable, but I can promise that He is at work; He’s faithful; He hasn’t forgotten you.
If your faith is floundering, get into His Word. Dig down deep. Cling to Him and His promises. Use a concordance to look up keywords. BibleGateway is easy to use. It’s online and it’s free. Read the Psalms. Pray them back to God. Memorize passages of Scripture and meditate on them throughout the day.
Notice, also, Abram took God at His Word and He “accounted it to him for righteousness.” He was saved by his faith. Romans 1 says:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
If you have never believed God for salvation, that’s where your believing need to start. We must believe that God sent His Son as a helpless babe, to grow up and live the righteous life we never could, and then as the only sinless man, die the death we deserved (Gal. 4.4,5; Jn. 3.13-18). But it didn’t end there, He was raised from the dead so we could have new life in Him (Rom. 10.8,10,13; 2 Cor. 5.17). Now He sits at the right hand of the Father praying for us (Rom. 8.34).
If you’re not sure about all that, I encourage you to study the verses I listed. Pray and ask God to reveal Himself to you. If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. Just leave me a comment. Comments aren’t automatically published, so if you’d rather I email you, I’ll be happy to do that instead.
Maybe, you have genuinely believed God for salvation, but you’ve failed Him in some way … perhaps many times. Maybe you think He’ll never answer your prayers because of it.
Certainly, when we stubbornly refuse to repent and turn away from some sin, God can and often does withhold answers. He is a Father and if we belong to Him, He deals with us as sons and daughters (Heb. 12.5-11).
But God does not demand sinless perfection. He knows we will fall. He is looking for a right heart attitude … not one that uses His grace as justification to keep on sinning, but one that desires to please Him and is broken over sin. At those times, we must run back to the cross and remember that Christ died for all of our sins: past, present, and future.
We can look up and humbly confess our sins. When we do, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1.9).
So what happened next in Abram’s life? What happened after his great, faith-filled conversation with God?
One chapter later … God still hadn’t given them a child, so Sarai came up with her own solution and Abram went along with it. She gave him her handmaiden Hagar as his wife so they could get the child they so desperately wanted. How like us they were! How many times do we complicate our lives by trying to help God out?!
A Common Question
On a side note, one of the questions I’ve been asked many times about this passage is, “Why did God allow this to happen? And why did He, so frequently, allow the patriarchs in the Old Testament to have multiple wives?”
“Allow” is the key word here. It wasn’t that God wanted them to do so. In fact, you can see in this story and in others, that it always leads to strife and problems of every kind. God doesn’t hide any of that. God’s word, not only reveals the truth about God, but it exposes human nature, even at its worst. God lets us see humankind with all our warts so we will recognize our desperate need for Him (Rom. 15.4).
Sarai’s solution was customary in the culture around them, but it was not the way God designed things. It led to a multitude of problems beginning with Hagar’s loss of respect for her mistress and the rejection of her authority.
We, also, see the very human interaction between Abram and Sarai. She immediately blamed him for doing what she suggested!
I wonder what she might have said to her husband. Maybe something like, “Well, you should have known I was just having a bad day. You didn’t have to be so happy to go along with it!”
Then Abram, instead of dealing with the situation says, in effect, “Look, this was your idea, now you deal with it any way you like!”
Can you relate?
What we don’t see here is either of them taking responsibility for their own actions. And guess what, the situation will come back to haunt them. Again, God doesn’t hide any of this but allows us to see it for what it is. The amazing thing is, He still used these people for His divine purposes! That should give us hope that He really can use us!
Today’s Other Readings:
Now to our New Testament reading. This section of Scripture begins by encouraging us to store up eternal treasure rather than treasuring the things of this world (Matt. 6.19-21).
What we treasure tells us a lot about our hearts. Sometimes, even good things can become far too important to us.
Wanting our children to be obedient is a good thing, but if we’re willing to sin (yelling, manipulating) to get it, we may desire it for the wrong reasons or want it too much.
Wanting our husbands to lead the family and grow spiritually is a good thing, but if we’re willing to nag, criticize, or become sinfully angry, we treasure it more than pleasing God (2 Cor. 5.9-10).
It wasn’t wrong for Abram and Sarai to want the child they were promised. Just as it isn’t wrong for any of us to desire a child. But when they took matters into their own hands and responded sinfully, they revealed their lack of trust in God to do what He had said he would do.
Don’t Worry, Seek His Kingdom
Matt. 6.25-33 contains one of two great passages about worry. The other is Philippians 4.6-8. If you struggle with the sin of worry, spend time meditating on these two passages. Instead of worrying, verse 33 says:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
What things? The things He’s been talking about in the previous verses: food, shelter, clothing—provision—the things we need. And what does it mean to seek the kingdom of God? It’s seeking His right way of doing things; it’s what it’s like to have God as King!
If we go back to our Genesis reading and apply it to Abram and Sarai, we might say they needed to let God be in control, seek His way of working out the problem and to trust Him to provide for them. Remember in Abram and Sarai’s time, having children meant having someone to take over the family business and someone to care for you in your old age.
There was no Social Security or retirement plan. Children were their retirement plan. These were very human people, dealing with very human emotions: fear, worry, a desire for children, impatience (wanting to know how God was going to work things out and wanting it now) and self-sufficiency (trusting themselves instead of God). Sound familiar?
The Multitude of His Mercy
Verse 4 says that He is not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness (not with people in the Bible and not with us). But in verse 7 the psalmist says:
“But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy …”
It’s the only way any of us can enter in.
His Wisdom for the Upright
I love verses 6 & 7:
“For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly.”
Ephesians 5.15 says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.”
That word “circumspectly” means “accurately, diligently, or carefully.” The only way we can live circumspectly or wisely is by knowing and understanding God through His Word. And He offers His wisdom freely! It’s stored up for us, but we must dig it out by reading, studying, and meditating on His Word.
When we do, it will be a shield to us, because it will help keep us from doing what Abram and Sarai did, trying to work things out our own way.
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This Month’s Featured Resources:
Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
“This little book is explosive and powerful.”
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
When you pray, does it ever feel like you’re just saying the same old things about the same old things?
Offering us the encouragement and the practical advice we’re all looking for, Donald S. Whitney, best-selling author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, outlines an easy-to-grasp method that has the power to transform our prayer life: praying the words of Scripture. Simple, yet profound, Praying the Bible will prove invaluable as you seek to commune with your heavenly Father in prayer each and every day.
The MacArthur Daily Bible takes a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs for each day of the year, with daily comments that guide and inform you as you read through the Bible in a year. John MacArthur’s insight maximizes the benefit of each day’s reading. If a commitment to daily Bible reading never worked for you before, this is the answer. With John at your side, there’ll be no such thing as a tough portion of Scripture.