Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wait like Abram or Charge like David?

"Believe It or Not, God Sees, Hears and Works."  Genesis 16

God's time clock is certainly out of sync with ours as Little Jimmy learned one day as he was laying on a hill in the middle of a meadow on a warm spring day. Puffy white clouds rolled by and he pondered their shape. Soon, he began to think about God.
"God? Are you really there?" Jimmy said out loud. To his astonishment a voice came from the clouds. "Yes, Jimmy? What can I do for you?"
Seizing the opportunity, Jimmy asked, "God? What is a million years like to you?"
Knowing that Jimmy could not understand the concept of infinity, God responded in a manner to which Jimmy could relate. "A million years to me, Jimmy, is like a minute."
"Oh," said Jimmy. "Well, then, what's a million dollars like to you?" "A million dollars to me, Jimmy, is like a penny."
"Wow!" remarked Jimmy, getting an idea. "You're so generous... can I have one of your pennies?"
God replied, "Sure thing, Jimmy! Just a minute."
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God."  Is there anything more difficult than waiting on God?  It's like standing in a fire ant mound and somebody saying,  "Now, don't move."  Why is God that way?  Is He up there just getting His divine grins from making us suffer and squirm?  He is obviously just a big old meany-head who doesn't like us and wants us to stress out over so many things in our lives, right?
In fact, how many of you have prayed and prayed for something to happen and it seems like you get no answer?  Honestly, sometimes I pray and ask God which way I should go or what I should do and...he just doesn't answer.  I know I'm not the first one that has felt that way.  Job says in the Old Testament, ‘I go east, but he is not there. I go west but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north for he is hidden. I turn to the south, but I cannot find him.” (Job 23:8).

Maybe right now you have a situation in your life and you are wondering where God is. Maybe it’s a disease you deal with and you are wondering if God notices. Maybe it’s a rebellious child and you’ve asked God to help; but your child just dives deeper into rebellion. Maybe you’ve been abused and the pain is deep and it just won’t go away and you wonder if God even cares. Maybe you have a decision that you need to make but there is no clear picture as to what you should do. And God is not helping you see what you should do. He’s silent.
John Claypool, who in his book The Light Within You, tells of his young daughter who was diagnosed with Leukemia and was in a tremendous amount of pain. One night in the hospital she asked him, “Daddy, when will my pain go away?” And John said, “Honey, we’re doing everything we can to get rid of it.” And his daughter asked, “Daddy have you asked God when my leukemia will go away? Have you asked him daddy? What did God say?”

And Claypool writes that he didn’t know what to say to her. “What do you say to a little girl when God seems as if he is not listening. What do you say,” he writes, “when the heavens seem silent.”
Sarai was a woman in the Bible who became frustrated with God’s silence when she could not get pregnant. She wanted desperately to have a child but it just wasn’t happening. Open your Bibles up to Genesis 16 and let’s look at Sarai’s story and then draw some lessons for our lives about how we should react when it appears that God is silent.
I told you last week that the story of Abram and Sarai, or Abraham and Sarah as they are called later, is a story of fulfillments and obstacles.  In their story we see God fulfilling His promise to Abram or we see obstacles to that fulfillment.  Every time we see them it is something that is going to keep God from fulfilling His promise but we see that every time God comes through.
As you remember God promised Abram that Abram was going to be blessed and that he would be a blessing and that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the beach.  Look at 15:5 where God says so.  The problem is that when God made this promise Abram was 75 and Sarai was 65, well past the age of reproduction.  Now here we are 10 years baby.  What would you do?
The whole 16th chapter is not very long.  Let's read it and see what they did.
Wow!  Women!  Can't live with em and you can't shoot em.  You know, it's just like that whole Garden of Eden thing.  It's all the woman's fault.  That's obvious.  No, I'm kidding.  Abram was just as much at fault here.  The thing is, while we would never consider doing such a thing, back then it was not only acceptable it was almost expected to take a servant and have a child by her if your wife could not bear one.  There were laws that said that a man should do that.
I want us to see three things in this passage.  As the title of the message says, God sees,  God hears and God works.  Whether you see it or not, hear it or not or believe it or not, God is at work.
Now, I'll be honest with you.  I would rather be preaching about my friend David going up against Goliath.  I love that story!  I love everything about it.  Have you read that lately?  I Samuel 17.  I'm not going to read it right now but it says that David saw what was happening and he ran toward Goliath and used his slingshot to put a rock right in Goliath's forehead.
Yes!  That's what I'm talking about!  Kill him David!  Now cut off his head and kick him in the ribs and poke him in the eye!  That'll teach him.  And honestly, that's what I want God to give me permission to do sometimes.  That's a whole lot more satisfying than "Be still and know that I am God."  My question is how do we know when to wait and when to run forward?
Look at verses 1 & 2.  Sarai says in verse 2 that God has kept her from having children and she's right.  But then she says perhaps I can build a family through Hagar.  What you don't hear her say is that God said to or God told me to.  So often we pray that God would open a door for us so we will know what to do.  Well, that's not a bad thing to pray but just because a door is open doesn't mean that we are supposed to walk through it.
It might even be the right door but the wrong time to walk through it so the secret is to wait on God to say, "Ok, the door is open.  Now walk through it."  Or run through it!  So, while it may have been legal for Abram to do what he did and he even had Sarai's permission, it was not God's will or timing and so let's look at what happens.
The end of verse 2 says Abram agreed and verse 4 says she conceived.  Good news, right?  The plan worked.  Well, yea, technically their plan worked but since it wasn't God's plan it started coming unraveled pretty quick.  Right off the bat Hagar starts feeling like she is better than Sarai.  Sarai blames Abram and Abram doesn't want any part of it and so Sarai starts mistreating Hagar and Hagar runs off.
I'm so glad we are not that way.  I'm so glad that we know better and when we do mess up we know to take responsibility and ask for forgiveness and then we deal appropriately with the consequences because the way these folks handled conflict is dumb, right?
I have some headlines for you just from within the last couple of days:
Now I have some "headlines" from scripture:  Psalm 138:6 says, "Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly."  2 Chronicles 16:9  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.  Psalm 139:1 O Lord you have searched me and know me.  Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.   Jeremiah 16:17 My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.
When I say that God is watching you there are 2 ways to take that.  Negatively or positively.  You will think it a bad thing if you are not doing what you are supposed to do and if you are doing what you are supposed to do then it's a good thing.  But however you want to take it you need to remember that God always sees you.  He is always aware and he always hears you.
Look at verse 7.  "The angel of the Lord"...There is some discussion about who this person is.  Some believe this to be the pre-incarnate Christ and maybe it is but I believe that it is, as it says, an angel that God has given the right and responsibility to speak for Him.  He asks where she is going to and coming from.
Hagar says she is running away.  She doesn't even have to give the details.  The angel knows what is going on and with the right and responsibility to speak for God the angel lets Hagar know that God has heard her.  Read v.10.
Then in v13 Hagar says that she realizes that God has seen her and has made Himself known and calls Him El Roi (the God who sees).  God sees.  God hears and God is at work.  She went back to Sarai and did as she was told and gave birth to Ishmael.  I've said before that God's will is going to be done.  His overall will is going to be done and you can be a part of it and be blessed or you can choose the way that seems right to you and like Sarai you can say "perhaps this will work" and you can suffer the consequences.
So, how do we know which way to go?  How do we know if we are supposed to wait like Abram or charge like David?  Turn to Proverbs 3:5-6.  If this isn't marked in your Bible it should be.  If you don't have it memorized, you should.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight
If only Abram and Sarai had continued to wait on God.  If only they had trusted in the Lord with all of their heart and had not leaned on their own understanding then how much better off they would have been. 
3 more verses from Psalms to close:  Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 38:15 “I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.” Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the LORD , my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”
Whatever it is that you are waiting on today know that God sees you.  He hears you.  And he continues to work in your life whether you believe it or not.  Trust Him.

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