Turn Around

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” Matthew 3:1-2 HCSB

Our church recently added an additional exit from our front parking lot. The state would only allow for the access to be an exit because the lane is only wide enough for one car. We have put up signs that say “Exit Only” and “Do Not Enter,” but inevitably cars come in the exit going the wrong way. None have yet stopped and turned around when they encounter a car going the right direction. The drivers usually drive off of the lane into the grass to get by. It seems they are determined not to follow the signs even at the risk of running into another car going in the right direction.

That is the way that many people approach life now and in the day of John the Baptist. They are determined to go against the laws and do what they want. They don’t seem to care that they are going in the wrong direction. Frequently when people are confronted with their sins, they continue to be self-centered and indulge in ungodly behaviors even though they know such actions are wrong and against God’s laws. John the Baptist was calling for people to repent (to turn from from sins) and go in the right direction.

Challenge: The first step of repentance is to admit that we have sinned. The second step is to turn 180 degrees and go in the opposite direction from the ways of our sin. The third step is to begin following God’s way of living by His Word. God does not expect us to clean up our act before coming to Him. We will still fail from time to time, but we must recognize we are sinners and strive to live in a way that would be pleasing to God.

Inner Beauty

Before he had finished speaking, there was Rebekah – daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor – coming with a jug on her shoulder. Now the girl was very beautiful, a young woman who had not known a man intimately. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came up. Genesis 24:15-16 HCSB

There is a lot of pressure on both men and women to look their best. A survey conducted by YouGov and the Huffington Post revealed that 25% of men and 21% of women take longer than 30 minutes to get ready each morning. To go out at night, 42% of women take longer than 30 minutes to get ready. Women spend a pretty penny on make-up products. Statista reports that the cosmetics industry brings in over $55 billion annually. The average woman in the United States will spend approximately $15,000 on cosmetics during her lifetime.

We place a lot of emphasis on outward beauty, but God is more concerned with our inner beauty. The Scripture records that Rebekah was very beautiful and that she had not known a man intimately. Eliezer was more concerned with her inner beauty of patience, kindness, and joy than her outward appearance. People with such inner beauty qualities are really beautiful people – on the inside.

Challenge: When God looks at your inner beauty what does He see? Are you too concerned with your outward appearance? Focus on being a person with inner beauty and people will see you as being a beautiful person.

Servant Attitude

Let the girl to whom I say, ‘Please lower your water jug so that I may drink,’ and who responds, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels also’ – let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. By this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.” Genesis 24:14 HCSB

One of the reasons that Chic-fil-a has been so successful is they have learned the art of employing good people and training them well in the art of customer service. If you have been to a Chic-fil-a, certainly you have heard those common words “It will be a pleasure to serve you at the window” or “How can I serve you today?” It is all about having a servant attitude.

Eliezer did not ask God to show him a woman with good looks or wealth. Instead he asked for a woman who had a servant’s heart. It would have been common and expected for a woman to draw water for a weary traveler, but it would not have been expected for her to draw water for the animals as well. Eliezer asked God to show him a woman with a servant’s heart that would be willing to go beyond what was expected. He knew that type of woman would be a good wife for Isaac.

Challenge: Are you willing to go beyond what is expected to serve other people? God wants all of us to have a servant’s heart. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life–a ransom for many.” He also was willing to take on the role of the lowest of servants and wash the feet of His disciples. To be a true follower of Christ we must be willing to go beyond what is expected and follow His example of serving others.

Give Me Success

He made the camels kneel beside a well of water outside of town at evening. This was the time when the women went out to draw water. “Lord, God of my master Abraham,” he prayed, “give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.” Genesis 24:7 HCSB

I have read the little book, “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life” by Bruce Wilkinson. The book chronicles the prayer of Jabez as recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10 where Jabez requests God’s blessing and protection. Bruce encourages believers to pray the same type of prayer that will release God’s favor in their lives. Some claim that the book is preaching a prosperity Gospel that turns God into a vending a machine that produces good things for people who will just ask for it. Others say that this is just one example of many in the Bible where people have prayed for God’s guidance and protection.

Obviously Eliezer had learned much about faith in God from his master Abraham. First, he was smart and went to the location (the local well) where woman would come to draw water. Second, he prayed to God to give him success in finding a wife for Isaac.

Challenge: We can learn from this example. First, we should do what we can to accomplish the task that God has given us to do. Second, we should pray and seek God’s guidance and success in every venture we undertake. The Bible instructs us to present our requests to the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7). Abraham set a good example for Eliezer to follow. What type of example are you setting for those around you?

An Angel Will Go Before You

The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from my native land, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your offspring’ – He will send His angel before you, and you can take a wife for my son from there. Genesis 24:7 HCSB

There is speculation that often we encounter angels from heaven. They may not have wings and wear white robes. Instead they may be dressed just as we are dressed and look just like any of our friends or neighbors. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.”

An angel went before Abraham’s household manager to help prepare the way and direct him to the wife for Isaac. God used angels to help accomplish His will. In the old classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the angel, Clarence, had to earn his wings by helping George Bailey. This of course is fictional and not Scriptural. The Bible gives no indication that angels earn their wings. I do believe angels can help us and guide us to do what is right.

Challenge: God still uses angels to help believers today. You may not recognize when you encounter an angel. Ask God to help you by sending His angels to watch over you as described in Psalm 91 and to direct you in following His path for you.

Arranged Marriage

Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his household who managed all he owned, “Place your hand under my thigh, and I will have you swear by the Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live, but will go to my land and my family to take a wife for my son Isaac.” Genesis 24:2-4 HCSB

I have two sons and two daughters. All are married and live in the middle Tennessee area. It would have been tempting to select the husband or wife for each of my children, but I probably would not have selected the right person. I could not be more pleased with the spouses my children have selected. From the day each of my children were born I prayed that they would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior and that God would provide them with a Christian spouse. God has graciously answered my prayers.

In our culture courtship and marriage is a personal relationship that develops between the bride and groom. In Abraham’s time it was common and acceptable for the son’s wife to be chosen by his parents. They would select a girl for their son to marry and then make a payment to the father of the girl for her to become their son’s wife. It was common for a girl to marry in her early teens. Abraham wanted a wife for his son that was not a Canaanite but was from his own tribe. She was not to be forced into the marriage but would willingly enter into the relationship. Abraham knew this was an important decision and because he was too old to travel to his homeland to find a suitable wife for his son, he entrusted that important task to his household manager who was to be led by God to the right person for Isaac.

Challenge: If single, pray for God to lead you to the right person to marry. If married, thank God for your spouse. If you have children and grandchildren, pray for God to direct them to a Christian spouse to marry. Pray for Spirit-filled marriages for your friends, relatives, and neighbors.

Jehovah Jireh

Then he said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named the place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.” Genesis 22:12-14 HCSB

“Jehovah-Jireh” is one of the many different names of God found in the Old Testament. “Jehovah-Jireh” is the King James Version translation of YHWH-Yireh and means “The Lord Will Provide”. Abraham used this name to memorialize the place where God provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac.

Why did God ask Abraham to perform human sacrifice? God condemned this as terrible sin. God did not want Isaac to die, but He wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than his only son.

Note the parallel between God providing the ram as a substitute for Isaac as a sacrifice and Christ being offered as a substitute for us as a sacrifice for our sins. God stopped Abraham from harming Isaac but He did not stop the sacrifice of His only son, Jesus Christ. If Jesus had lived, we would have to pay the penalty for our sins and die. Jesus made it possible for us to be spared from eternal death and given eternal life.

Challenge: Thank God for providing the perfect sacrifice for your sins and giving you eternal life in heaven.

We Will Come Back

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the sacrificial knife, and the two of them walked on together. Genesis 22:5-6 HCSB

Abraham is known for his great faith. When he said, “We” will come back was he just saying that or was he confident that God would provide a sacrifice in place of Isaac and the two of them would return? Or did he believe that Isaac would come back to life, or did he think that Isaac would not really die? We do not really know what Abraham was thinking, but we do know that he was confident the two of them would come back and the Bible even records those confident words of Abraham’s faith in God.

The wood being placed on Isaac was a foreshadowing of Christ carrying His cross. Isaac carried the wood intended for the sacrifice and Christ carried the cross made of wood on which He would be sacrificed for the sins of all mankind.

Challenge: Too many times we doubt God or we are not willing to completely trust Him and have the faith that He will take care of everything. As children of God we must understand that God loves us and wants only the best for us. Everything may not go as we desire or plan, but everything will go as God plans. His ways are always best even if we do not understand. Just as Abraham, we must have faith and confidence in God. Pray that God would help you have the faith needed to face every challenge in life.

God Will Provide

Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together. Genesis 22:7-8 HCSB

There have been times in my life when I have trusted God to provide for my financial needs. I have been faithful to do what I felt God was calling me to do not knowing how I was going to pay for it or if I would have the money to pay my bills. Many are the occasions when things have been very tight financially, but God has always provided for our needs and we have never gone without. He has blessed us abundantly with unexpected checks in the mail or some other benefit that has taken care of the shortfall in funds.

I know there are some faithful Christians who do struggle financially and it may seem that God is not providing for their needs. I cannot explain why God allows some people to suffer more than others, but I do know that God knows what is best. It may not seem equal or fair, but it is always what is best for each one of His children.

Isaac had a legitimate question asking where the lamb was for the sacrifice. Was Abraham trying to avoid his son’s question or did he really have faith that God would provide the needed sacrifice? We are not sure what Abraham was thinking, but it is obvious that he was confident God would provide what was needed.

Challenge: Try trusting God to provide for your needs (not your wants). Trusting God does not mean not paying your bills and being irresponsible, but perhaps God is calling you to step out on faith and trust Him to take care of a specific need in your life.

Following God’s Instructions

So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. Genesis 22:1-2 HCSB

Any time we took a trip with our four children it involved much packing and preparation. Clothes had to be put in suitcases. Toys had to be selected to go in the van. Pillows were packed and we even packed a television and video tape player to entertain our children as we traveled down the road. Going on any trip took concentrated planning.

God had commanded Abraham to take a trip to a place where he would sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering. Abraham did not hesitate; he immediately began to make preparation for the trip. Certainly this was not what Abraham had planned or had a desire to do. He could have said “No” to God, but instead he faithfully went about the task of preparing to go on the trip (saddling his donkey and splitting wood for the burnt offering). At this time Abraham would have been well over 100 years old, yet he was still capable of doing this type of manual labor. He then faithfully set out on the trip that God had commanded.

Challenge: How many times do we “drag our feet” and delay doing something that God wants us to do? We need to follow Abraham’s example and when God tells us to do something, we need to quickly move and do whatever God has commanded. What is God calling you to do today, this week, that you have delayed doing?