The Story Ch. 2 "GOD BUILDS A NATION"
You know you’re getting old when…
We often jokingly admit that getting old limits us. It isn’t easy to face the facts that we can’t do many of the things we used to do in the “good ‘ole days”. In chapter 2 of The Story, however, we see that isn’t true in God’s mind. Age certainly didn’t put limitations on who He would choose or who He would use to accomplish one of the greatest historical events—the birth of God’s chosen nation. That’s really good news for those of us “of a certain age”!
In Chapter 2, we see God scatter people all over the world. He diversified them into different languages that would create different nations. From the “upper” story perspective, God was in control moving things towards His original design: mankind would multiply and fill the earth. God’s express purpose was that His glory will ultimately be fully expressed through the diversity of nations and people. Ultimately, this would mean thousands united in Christ giving glory to God and experiencing the glory of God in their own absolutely unique way.
After creating diversity of nations, God chooses a couple to form a specific nation. This nation is the one He will use to reveal Himself to the world; ultimately the nation that will carry the line of His Son, Jesus. This is a nation that would have the capacity to lead the whole world back to the Garden.
To carry out this important responsibility, God chooses Abram and Sarai. This is an odd choice for two main reasons: 1. Abe is a moon worshipper and the son of an idol maker 2. He is about 75 and Sarai is about 65. This is another example of the “upper” story seeming to go against the typical “worldview” of aging. In their “lower” story (and some of ours), time was on the downhill side, senior discounts, early dinners, life “slowing” down…but God…
In God’s Story, age is not a factor. God chooses to “count in” people we would “count out” of His story. If we will align with Him, we are never too old, too odd, too skinny, too fat, too nerdy, too average, too sinful, too anything for God to use us or do something incredible with our life. He delights; He literally gets a big laugh, in using “the most likely not to succeed”!
God chooses and uses Abram because he is willing to live by faith. Faith is the most important thing that pleases God and allows Him to use us. God does not force us to have faith; He is pleased when we do. That opens the door to our heart for God to use us. Abram had no frame of reference for “faith”. God just showed up an asks Abe to accept His offer by giving him two things.
First, Acts 7:2 tells us that “the God of glory” makes an appearance to Abram. God makes an outrageous invitation—without offering any proof or explanation—just His Glory. God simply says, “Get out, go to a land I will show you”. Personally, the older I get, the less I like change. Incredibly, Old Abe is willing to do something so counterintuitive!
Second, God gives His Word. God gives Abram an incredible promise, “focus simply on following and obeying Me by faith; I will bless your socks off, you won’t have to worry about enemies, resource, or direction” (Walker Standard Translation). This is the foundation of the type of relationship God wants with every true follower. I have personally learned this. That’s why I am in Las Cruces. It didn’t make sense, it wasn’t logical. It was a simply act of following God in faith and watching Him bless my obedience. Following God is not about figuring things out, it is just taking the next step even if you don’t know where you’re suppose to go after that.
With no tangible evidence, Abram heads out with Sarai. They walk off their map, not knowing where they will end up, in search of a “new world”…kind of like Christopher Columbus.
There are two huge principles of living a life of faith we must understand:
First, blessing comes after obedience not before. People want to say, “Let me see it, feel it, have it and then I will obey.” With God, however, it is always obey first; then we’ll see it. That’s true in tithing, in witnessing, in every area of living a Christian life. Obedience always means facing and stepping beyond fear and concern for our reputation and the opinions of other people.
Second, living by faith will involve claiming and acting like something is true for long periods of time when there is no external evidence. When we live believing we are about to give birth to something really big even though there’s no proof, people think we’re crazy. Abram lived in complete confidence; as someone who was in the process of birthing a nation even though he had no kids and owned no property. God kept Abram focused in faith by speaking to him and giving him a heart vision for things Abram had not yet seen. Abram learned to live by the whispers of God not the “proof” of circumstances. God does show His faithfulness to Abram as Abram is faithful. It is a relationship built on trust and promise-a covenant relationship. Abram doesn’t have to worry about enemies or income as He puts God first. Even when Lot tries to rip Abram off, God proves faithful. Abram ends up with more livestock than he can count.
What happened next was the delay; God hits the “pause” button. Waiting is one of the hardest things to do when God calls us to do something. We live in a fast paced, urgent, get things done world. God’s Kingdom clock and calendar look very different than ours. We are not even in the same time zone. God thinks in “upper” story time; we think in “lower” story time.
This is a “dangerous” zone in obedience and faith. This is when we can decide we know better than God what the time should be…
That’s exactly what happened with our nation builders. After 10 years or so, when Abe 85 and Sarai is 75, Sarai decides maybe God needs her help. Through Sarai’s “plan”-and Abram, like Adam, passively agreeing, disaster happens—and we live with the consequences of their decision today. Sarai’s decision is a common mistake we can make. Thinking we are smarter than God and not trusting Him to be right. More dangerous than choosing “bad” things on our own is justifying “good” things in our own flesh. Instead of waiting for God’s will to work through us, we determine to work out our will. This is where we can literally tank our future, forcing something to happen in our timing, not God’s. We can replace God with self by justifying “good” things. God is absolutely determined to show us that what He will do will be accomplished by His faithfulness, not our striving or cunning manipulation of things. When we decide it’s time, sentences begin with “I’m” … “I’m going to go get a husband, I’m going to go let my neighbors have it and straighten everybody out, I’m going to go in debt, I’m going to”…you name it. Important tip: if it begins with “I’m going to…” might want to reconsider who you are following…
Finally, when Abram is 99 and Sarai is 90, when there is absolutely no human way this can be accomplished through “normal” pregnancy, hope fades; nevertheless, God says the timing is perfect. In preparation for the big reveal, God renames them. Abraham means “Father of a multitude, Sarah means “Queen” and “mother of nations”. God promises Isaac which means “Laughter”. In Genesis 21 we see, “The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would.”
Great story; however, it doesn’t end there. Abraham is asked to prove his ongoing trust in God’s Word. When Abraham is about 115 years old, without telling him the game plan, God sends him off to give a sacrifice and take his son, the young man Isaac, with him. God asks Abraham, who has waited forever for this son, to sacrifice him on the altar! At the last moment, when Abraham obeys up to the point of nearly killing Isaac, God shows him a ram caught in the bushes. The picture is of the substitutionary work that Jesus will provide for all of us years later. God teaches Abraham something very important. In addition to the importance of having complete and utter faith and trust in God for fulfilling His Word, we must be willing to give that which He gives us back to Him completely. There is something very, very powerful about putting our Isaac on the altar. Abraham did it because:
First, He believed God would honor His Word. That meant God would have to raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill His promise. There is only one bottom line in obedience: Do you believe God? Is He good? Is He able? Do you trust Him? Then obedience is never a problem. If you don’t believe, obedience will always be a problem.
Second, if we’re not careful, it is possible that even the blessings of God can REPLACE God to some degree in our life. We can receive a miracle and a blessing, but subtly it is possible for that to become like an idol. Suddenly we can start to look to that thing, or that ministry as who we are, our identity, our joy, our validity. We can give our family, our ministry, our finances, our health too big of a place in our lives. We can have a false dependency on them. I love my ministry, my family, my health; however, I can’t make them my life, my joy, what gives me my identity, my value. In fact, the most hurtful thing I can do is to make any of these things my source! I would be like a vacuum cleaner, constantly sucking the life out of these things until it devastated me. The only Source, the only place my true identity can be, my life, my joy must be in Jesus. It is Jesus, only Jesus!
Finally, in the “upper” story perspective God wants to place in our “lower” story, God wanted Abraham (and us) to realize that He blesses us for a purpose:
Everything God did for Abraham and his descendants, ultimately the nation of Israel, was to make them a blessing and a witness to the nations; not so they could appear on an episode of Hoarders. Not “getting” this will ultimately be the root of Israel’s failure…
We are blessed to be a blessing to others, not to start taking credit or grasping it as “mine”. When we cloak our “will” as God’s, we often hide in religious “good” things. Religion is about our works for God; that is, if we work for God, we earn God’s blessing. A moralistic view is that I can get God to owe me if I do the right thing… wow, this has to be cast out of us. This is a faith/obedience deal breaker. We can’t earn it. Period.
As I said at the beginning of this blog, God’s express purpose was that His glory will ultimately be fully expressed through the diversity of nations and people. In the end of the Story, Revelation 7:9, there will be representatives from “every nation and tribe and people and language” that began with this Story in Genesis. When this amazing Story is complete, we will see the ultimate mission of the church: bringing all nations to know God’s glory; giving God glory for eternity as an incredible global family united in Christ forever! Will you be part of the Story? It’s really your choice. Will you live in the driver’s seat—maybe even doing good things—or will you be utterly reliant on God fulfilling things in your life by faith? Don’t miss out on your “part” in this incredible Story!!!