Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Humbled by God's goodness


Abraham sent a servant to a faraway land to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant gave the Lord a very specific prayer request, something like, “If I do this, and a young woman comes up and does that, then let that woman be the one for Isaac.”

I’ve not prayed quite like that but do remember one outrageous request. We lived in Alaska and I was drawn to some scrimshaw jewelry. I talked to God about it saying I would like to have some but couldn’t think of any reason He should give it to me except that He loved me. That was a much more brazen a prayer than the servant of Abraham, but I’ve since wondered if God likes those prayers.

He answered mine. I went to the shop where I saw the jewelry, told the shop owner I could not afford them, and she said, “Tell you what, I’ll trade you two pieces you like for one of your paintings.”

That experience still gives me goose bumps, and I’m sure the servant of Abraham had a similar reaction. God answered his prayer too; what he asked for happened exactly as he had asked. Of course, “The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord.” (Genesis 24:26)

The story also had a happy ending. The young woman went with the servant and was given to Abraham’s son. Would this ‘arranged’ marriage work out? The Bible says, “Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Genesis 24:67)

God does answer radical prayers, maybe not all of them, but He surprises His people with blessings we do not expect and shows loving care to those who pray in faith and bring glory to His name. This humbles me. If I were God, would I be so gracious?

The next bit of Scripture is about another kind of love, the one the NT calls “the root of all evil.” This passage explains one reason why this love is folly: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes?” (Ecclesiastes 5:10–11)

We watched part of the Barrett-Jackson car collectors event on television tonight. While collecting things is not necessarily evil, we wondered what motivates those who spend a great deal of money and time buying things just to look at them. Most of the vehicles sold at this auction sale will never be used. It is that way with many collections. They only grow bigger, as if the collectors are never satisfied.

However, I cannot talk . . . I’m collecting pictures on Pinterest, up in the hundreds. I say these are inspiration for art quilts, but I will never live long enough to tap into that collection and make that many quilts. Is such hoarding a desire to be secure? An evidence of not being satisfied? Isn’t God’s provision enough?

These thoughts are also humbling. I worship a God who has the power and authority to speak worlds into existence. Surely He can provide what I need when I need it (and He does this all the time). He even gave me that scrimshaw that I really didn’t need, as an expression of His power and love. After many years, I’m still convinced this is so, and just like Abraham’s servant, I am in awe of God.

The last passage tells of an incident that took place in an area where people worshiped the king as a god. Jesus talked to His disciples about the local chatter, asking who the people thought He was. When the twelve gave Him a variety of answers, then He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

At that time, they didn’t realize the significance of this question, but since then, one of the clearest doctrines of Christianity and the most vital test of being a child of God involves the answer to that question. Only those who believe will understand and have the right answer . . .

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:15–17)

Peter understood, not because he was smarter than the average fisherman, or because someone convinced him this was true, but because God revealed this truth to Him. Humanity can know there is a God by thoughtfully looking at nature (see Romans 12) and even thoughtfully considering ourselves (we are made in His image), but nothing gives us a hint that God Himself would pull on humanity and walk among us.

Even seeing Jesus in the flesh did not reveal His identity. Many saw Him and had no clue that He was the great “I AM.” Had they done so, they would not have put Him on a cross.

The amazing truth of the Gospel is that God reveals Himself to whomever He chooses. We are helpless and unable to see Him even though He is not far from any of us. Human wisdom and perception, education, nothing can prepare us for the wonder of God with us – except God – who does it by somehow opening our blind eyes. He uses many ways, including answers to odd prayers, and even making us dissatisfied with everything else.

This too is humbling. What a wonder is this God, and like the servant of Abraham, I bow my head and worship Him.



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