Devotions are not the same as Bible study. Study is more academic, and while I am open to the Holy Spirit, study collects and correlates information, sometimes for teaching or preaching (which I do not do).
Devotions are more like a conversation, a bit one-sided because God is speaking and I am listening for His voice. What does God want me to know or remember for my life of faith? How can I more closely walk with Him?
This year’s devotional book combines both, but the study is long and the devotional part is what the author of the study heard from God for his life. While that is truth I need too, it is not as specific or personal as when I read and study the passages myself, listening for what God says to my particular situation.
However, a summary of these four chapters helps me focus my thoughts. First, angelic visitors come to Abraham and announce Sarah would give birth within a year. She laughed. These angels also revealed God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot was living. Abraham didn’t laugh but interceded, asking God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. God destroyed those cities, but delivered Lot.
Abraham seemed to be more mature in his faith, but fear again motivated him to lie about his relationship with Sarah causing her to be taken by Abimelech king of Gerar. However, this king did not touch her because he was warned by God in a dream. Abimelech said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”
God replied in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” (Genesis 20:4–7)
When I read that part, “It was I who kept you from sinning against me,” my eyes filled with tears as I recalled a few times that temptation was so strong that I could not understand at the time why I had not given in to it. But it was God who kept me from sinning against Him. This is a precious truth. It causes me to often pray, “Lord, I am powerless and weak. You are my Savior; please save me!”
Later, Isaac the child God promised, was born and Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar, was sent away. Of course this was not the end of it. God told Abraham, “I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:13) This nation that came from Abraham and Sarah’s effort to make God’s promise come true was, and still is, the enemy of Isaac’s offspring.
In the New Testament, these two sons are compared to the fruit of faith which is the work of God, and the fruit of flesh, or human effort. Waiting on God and trusting Him to keep His promises results in great reward. Whereas giving in to my own ideas of how to make good things happen very often brings results that trouble me for the rest of my life.
Abraham made many mistakes, but is still called the father of faith and is the example throughout Scripture of how I should trust God and wait; He will do what He promises to do!