The Prayer of Eliezer

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It should be a familiar story, but let’s call it Mission Impossible: The Bachelor. It’s the one where Abraham sends his trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24). Abraham doesn’t want Isaac to marry a local Canaanite so he sends his servant on a mission to his hometown some 600 miles away. From a modern perspective it’s simply outrageous. How does a beautiful young lady (Rebekah) leave her family, and everything she’s ever known, to take off on a camel caravan across the desert to marry a man she’s never met? Yet, we know that’s exactly what happens. It’s all part of God’s plan and the story of the servant reveals much more.

The Faithful Servant
So who is this servant fellow? He’s not actually named in the passage, but he’s described very well. He’s the oldest servant in Abraham’s household and he’s in charge of all that he had. In today’s language, he would be the top employee, power of attorney, executor of his estate, and trusted advisor. Many scholars believe it’s Eliezer, mentioned in Genesis 15:2 as Eliezer of Damascus, the only heir of Abraham’s house (before Isaac was born). His name means: God is help.

Now, it’s time for the mission and he accepts it by swearing to do all that Abraham asked. It’s a mission Abraham believes God will bless and even send an angel before him, but also one where Abraham acknowledges that if she doesn’t come back his oath would be fulfilled. Eliezer’s name is no accident, he would need God’s help. It’s only the lineage of the Messiah at stake, no pressure!  

The Obedient Servant
In verse 10 Eliezer makes plans like an elderly wise man would. He prepares to go with gifts and a small caravan of camels. Since he’s from Damascus, he most likely never traveled to Abraham’s hometown in Mesopotamia. He must have become a servant when Abraham first arrived in the land of Canaan, not long after God called Abraham to leave his country and his kindred. If true, he has little knowledge of the terrain of where he’s going, but I imagine he researched it and planned it out in incredible detail, keeping in mind he had to bring a young lady back safely.  

From the plans in verse 10 to the destination in verse 11, the story progresses quickly, completely skipping his journey details, to where the camels are kneeling near a well outside the City of Nahor. However, let’s pause and consider that long journey, can you imagine the obstacles faced, the adversity overcome? Can you sense his relief of finally arriving at the target city, exhausted and thirsty, expectant, knowing the time of day the daughters would come to draw water, but unsure of what would happen? He made it in faithful obedience, but we only have one verse to know he made it.

The Prayerful Servant
Then we come to verse 12 and find Eliezer’s unique prayer, where he’s not kneeling like the camels, instead, he’s standing, eyes open, watching. This is the first recorded prayer in the Bible. There are other conversations between God and man, other visions noted, but this is the first prayer. It may seem odd that the first prayer is not from a well known character, but it’s not really that strange because we know that God chooses the humble and less obvious characters throughout the Bible to accomplish His purposes.

Another thing the writer (Moses) doesn’t tell us is how frequent Eliezer prayed during the mission, or if he was a prayer warrior. I imagine he prayed many, many times on the way, but what sticks out in the absence of this knowledge is that his faithful, obedient action precedes his specific prayer for guidance.

And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” (Genesis 24:12-14).

And here we must ask, is this a legitimate way for us to pray? Isn’t he asking for a sign and putting God to the test? What if this isn’t God’s will?

The Bible contains many prayers where God honors specific requests. One that comes to mind is Samson’s prayer in the Book of Judges where he asked for strength one last time (16:28). Of course, God, in His wisdom, may not grant our specific requests. For instance, Paul’s request to remove the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8). Thus, God may answer prayers exactly how we pray them, may not answer them (but like Paul – His grace is sufficient), or may answer them in a way that we don’t expect, but we should not be afraid to be very specific when we pray. In fact, we’re encouraged to go boldly before the throne of grace to find Help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Like Eliezer, we should make plans, seek wisdom, and take action, all while seeking the Lord’s guidance in prayer. Then we must trust our Great God to direct our steps and trust Him with the outcome.

The Worshipful Servant
We know that Eliezer was ultimately successful in his mission. Verse 15 tells us that before he finished praying Rebekah came out with a water jar. Then she does everything that he prays to confirm – she’s the one! And what’s amazing is before he even started to pray she had to be on her way. What a faithful God! When we see God’s faithfulness through the lens of answered prayer what does it cause us to do? Worship! And that’s exactly what he did:

The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things (Genesis 24:26-28).

May we all be encouraged to be faithful, obedient, and prayerful in the service of our Master. The next time you face a seemingly impossible situation, remember how God has been faithful in the past, that He is faithful for today, and we can trust Him to be faithful in the future. Thus, we can act, pray, and cling to His promises. And when you see His faithfulness through answered prayer, worship!

 

Is It Ever Okay To Lie?

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It’s a question often debated and the discussion typically begins with a challenging situation where lying is thought to be the lesser of two evils. The classic example is during the time of Nazi Germany. Would you lie to German soldiers who have come to your house in order to protect Jews hiding in your attic? What about a present day scenario where a neighbor frantically runs over to your house seeking help fleeing from an abuser and minutes later the alleged abuser shows up at your door? These are the types of roads that lying as the lesser of two evils travel.

What about all the examples of lying and deceit in Scripture?
There are many examples of lying in the Bible and some of the most well known involve Jacob and his family as found in the book of Genesis. For instance, Jacob deceiving Isaac to ensure he receives the blessing, Laban deceiving Jacob by giving him Leah for a wife instead of Rachel (so he had to serve another seven years for Rachel), and Jacob cunningly getting revenge on Laban. Then there’s Joseph’s brothers deceiving their father Jacob by showing him the fake animal blood on Joseph’s coat of many of colors, and Potiphar’s wife falsely accusing Joseph of making unwanted advances when it was the other way around. Two more examples from Scripture include Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, who pursued Naaman and asked for money and garments deceitfully after Elisha said he wouldn’t take anything (2 Kings 5:15-27), and in the New Testament we have Ananias and Sapphira lying about their giving (Acts 5:1-9).

What if God meant it for good?
In the above examples the lies and deception recorded produced fruit of frustration and loss, the consequences of heartache and damaged family relationships, or brought judgment and even death. Now in the story of Joseph, we learn at the end of Genesis that God ultimately used the terrible circumstances for good (Genesis 50:20). And here I want to acknowledge that God has the right, the wisdom, and the power to redeem any sin and turn it for good. However, it doesn’t mean that He always does this for every sin, and when He does do it we may never have the satisfying privilege of learning about the positive outcome like we find at the end of Genesis. It also doesn’t reverse the initial consequences experienced by those involved. What the Bible teaches us is: His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-11), He is Sovereign and Omniscient and we are not (see Job), and we can trust Him and His ultimate good purposes (Romans 8:28). However, we are still responsible for our actions and we have to work through difficult circumstances while trusting a Sovereign God (Philippians 2:12-13). This leads down many theological pathways regarding God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility (helpful sermon here), and the problem of evil (helpful blog posts here and here), which is not the primary purpose of this post – so let’s get back to the main topic. 

Two Positive Lies
The two lies in the Bible which are most like our first two scenarios above are when the Hebrew Midwives lied to Pharaoh to help save the Hebrew babies from being killed (Exodus 1:15-22), and when Rahab lies to help the Israelite spies before the fall of Jericho (Joshua 2). Many believe these are justifiable lies because they have a good outcome. For instance, the midwives saved many lives and Rahab helped Israel and protected her family.

Conclusion
Outside of a few favorable outcomes Scripture never tells us explicitly that it’s okay to lie, but it overwhelmingly reveals to us that it’s wrong. This was covered in a recent post entitled “What does the Bible say about lying?“ However, in difficult scenarios where lying is either a last ditch effort or a calculated response to thwart a greater evil, these examples show it may be justifiable or considered okay. Note: If there’s time for calculation I would recommend you seek wise Godly counsel. Finally, there are two more things which must be noted, one is these situations are rare and most people will never face choices like this, and two, those who do, and decide to lie, must be willing to accept
 any consequences caused by the lesser evil.

The Wise Counsel of Friends

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At some point in our lives we’ll face a crisis where we’re not sure what to do and we’re overwhelmed with the weight of what we’re facing. These kind of dilemmas may have various degrees of severity, but what they do is push us over the edge of the normal routine of life and into an uncomfortable situation that refines us by fire. The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom to help us navigate difficult circumstances and one thing is clear God provides friends with wise counsel to help and encourage us on our spiritual journey. Friends are precious gifts from God and we shouldn’t take friendship lightly.

Acknowledge The Need For Help

The first thing we must do in difficult situations is to realize when we need help, wisdom, and counsel from friends and act upon it. The challenge for us during tough times is we’re often flooded with anxiety and may experience sadness, depression, anger, restlessness, and frustration. Both sleep and the appetite may be lost, or we may go to the other extreme of oversleeping and overeating. This is on top of the daily pressure of work, school, family, and household duties. The reality of our specific situation may be multifaceted and complex. Our decision making may be clouded by doubts, fears, and mental phantoms where we tend to resist the help of our friends because it exposes something we’d rather not deal with. We may be hurting emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Therefore, we’re more likely to believe lies and say things out of frustration which aren’t helpful. We’re primed to make bad decisions.

This is precisely why and when we need wise friends with Godly counsel.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad (Proverbs 12:25).

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

Resist Following Your Own Heart

The second thing we must learn is to resist the desire to follow our own heart and mind because the Bible tell us we’re prone to think wrongly. Where the world tells us to “follow our heart”, the Bible says:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). 

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Here we often struggle by justifying our attempts of coping alone. We ask ourselves questions and answer back and believe things which aren’t true: “So what if I make an unwise decision or hurt someone? I’m already hurting, it can’t get any worse. Is this happening to me because of my sin? What if I have to confess something that makes me look bad? I think God is after me. I wonder what the Bible says about the situation? I really don’t have time to dig into the Word. I wonder if I should seek my pastor or friends advice? What if I talk to one of my friends, I’ve heard they’ve been through something similar? No, they wouldn’t understand my situation, it’s similar, but not really the same. And I bet my pastor is too busy, and I don’t want to look foolish to my friends, but is it more foolish of me not to seek advice? I don’t know, I’ll just do this my way and see how it goes.”

Embrace Wise Counsel

Whatever trial we’re facing its purpose is to help us depend less on ourselves and more on God. Trials reveal our heart, expose sin, and help us see our need for a Savior anew. This is where wise counsel helps us through the muck of our lives, helps us stay on the right path, and helps us to learn to accept the love and support of friends whom God has placed in our lives for this very purpose. Thus, instead of following our own heart, we should embrace the help of Christian friends and thank God for them.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). 

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:5-6).

And I’ll include my favorite again:

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

So embrace the sweetness of a friend who will rejoice your heart by their counsel and be that friend to others. Friends are a Godsend for our good and His glory on our life journey.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

This reminds me of The Pilgrim’s Progress, that famous book penned by John Bunyan, where the main character, Christian, has two friends on the way through life’s journey. One was named Faithful and the other Hopeful.

Faithful was from the City of Destruction whom Christian meets as he leaves the Valley of the Shadow of Death and the two journey together until Faithful is killed in the wild town of Vanity Fair. But soon after Faithful’s execution Christian meets Hopeful and the two of them travel together all the way to the Celestial City. After each trial God provides a friend for Christian.

In the second half of the book, Christian’s wife, Christiana, later follows her husband on a similar journey and she has Mercy and Great-heart to help her on her way. If you’ve not read The Pilgrim’s Progress lately I highly recommend it.

Like Bunyan, and the writer of Proverbs, God knows we need friends that are faithful, hopeful, full of mercy, and who have great hearts for the Lord. Embrace their wise counsel because, even though they’re not perfect, they are very much a sweetness to the soul and in God’s providence they provide much encouragement to us on our long spiritual journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delighting in the LORD’s Discipline

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What comes to mind when you think of a father’s discipline? Is it a rough and tough dad picking-you-up-by-the-pants and spanking you angrily out-of-control, or is it a strong, but caring father who firmly corrects you because he loves and delights in you? The later is of course the picture painted about the discipline our Heavenly Father gives in Proverbs.

Proverbs 3:11-12
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

The Hebrew word for despise is ma’ac (phonetically maw-as’) and it means to abhor, cast away off, disdain, become loathsome, refuse. What are we not to make light of and refuse? God’s love through His discipline. The Hebrew word for weary is quts (phonetically koots) which means to feel a loathing, abhorrence, or sickening dread. What are we not to sickening dread? God’s love through His reproof.

Let’s turn our attention to the word delight. It’s the Hebrew word ratsah (phonetically raw-tsaw’) which means to be pleased with or accept favorably. Should we loathe and hate to be under the loving care and discipline of a Father who is pleased with us and accepts us so favorably?

Think about these two points:  

  1. Our Heavenly Father disciplines us because He loves and delights in us, but if we despise His correction, we are despising His love.
  2. Our Heavenly Father disciplines us for His glory and our good, but when we’re in dread of, or distressed by, His correction, we are in fact denying His goodness and throwing shade on His glory.

Even the best earthly father will fail in many ways and ruin the perfect picture of love and discipline painted in this verse. The writer of the Book of Hebrews quotes it again to remind us not to forget it and never grow weary of our Heavenly Father’s discipline and care.

Hebrews 12:5-11 
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Don’t you love that He disciplines us for our good so that we may share in His holiness? Sinners! You and me? Holy?

Yes, His discipline may seem painful for a time, but it will one day produce peaceful fruit and holiness! And fruit takes the mind all the way back to the garden, to that seemingly delightful, yet sinful fruit that Adam and Eve partook of. But God, in Genesis 3:15, promised an Offspring, and then took His children by the hand in order to lead them all the way back to peace with Him. This peaceful fruit was made possible by and through the sacrifice of the promised Offspring – His One Loved Son!

We have a Good, Good Father indeed! Delight in Him…

Dealing with a Scoffer

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You’ve probably heard the saying, “you don’t want to be THAT person”, but what if you’re entangled in a life circumstance with THAT person through work or family? What is a scoffer and how do you deal with a scoffer?

The Bible tells us that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived and based on the Book of Proverbs he must have dealt with many difficult people and situations as he uses the Hebrew word luts (phonetically loots) for scoffer more than a dozen times.

This word means: to make mouths at, i.e. to scoff or have in derision, interpreter, ambassador (a bad one), make a mock, mocker, and scorner. A scoffer is generally surrounded by similar words like the Hebrew word zed (phonetically zade) which means arrogant, presumptuous, and proud. Other words describe this person as quarreling and full of strife. Thus, a scoffer is a very difficult person who is either clearly not a Christian, or could be the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing who is not a true follower of Christ.

For instance:

Proverbs 21:24 (ESV) – “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.

Proverbs 24:9 – The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.

So how do we deal with a scoffer? First, we must let the Bible inform us, we must heed the warnings and recognize the danger. For example:

Psalm 1:1-2 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Proverbs 9:7-8 – Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

Proverbs 14:6 – A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.

Proverbs 22:10 – Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.

Based on God’s word, and the wisdom provided, we must be very careful with a scoffer. We shouldn’t seek their counsel and we shouldn’t counsel, rebuke, or reprove them because it will only create hatred in them toward us and bring injury to us. However, there may be a time where you must drive away a scoffer which means you shouldn’t handle it alone. You will need to get others involved who have the authority to help you, even a restraining order.

But what about loving our enemies? Aren’t we supposed to love them? Yes, but sometimes staying away, driving away, or leaving someone alone is the best way to the love them and protect you and your family in a God honoring way.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation with a scoffer (and it may take a while to identify them as such) the best advice is to inform yourself with the Word of God, heed the truth, seek wise counsel, and pray. Pray for wisdom, pray for the difficult person – that their heart will be softened to the gospel and they will see their sinful ways, repent, and turn from that path.

But more importantly, pray and ask that God will reveal to you how this difficult circumstance can best change you. Why is this difficult person in my life? God, what are you teaching me through this challenging circumstance? Perhaps it’s not the scoffer God is working on, perhaps he’s refining us through a difficult person.

If you’re in the heat of battle with a scoffer and have been wounded by them, take heart, for God has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you and His mercies are new every morning. Seek Him, seek help, and as much as it depends on you – seek to live peaceably.

I’ll end with Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:17-19 (ESV):

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Forever

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Do not fall in love with a fleeting world
The desires of the eyes will fade
Do not take pride in the things that you own
All possessions will pass away

Look beyond the now
Look beyond the now

May our hope reside where perfect love abides
In the God Who is Forever
And may our passion be eternally
For the God Who lives forever
May new hearts be born to worship the Lord
And praise our God forever
Treasure Forever

Do not give yourself to lustful passions
It only leads to misery
Do not be caught in the web of pleasure
Spun by lies of the enemy

Walk the way He walked
Talk the way He talked
And share the good news
He’s coming back soon

Behind the lines

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).

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