Friday, July 19, 2013

Second Chances

"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Him and said, 'I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be blameless...'" Genesis 17:1

Shortly after Abram's faith was credited to him as righteousness, he discredited himself by trying to accomplish God's will in his own strength. Instead of waiting on God to fulfill His promise of a son, he and Sarai took matters into their own hands and fell into sin. Abram took Hagar as a second wife (polygamy was never God's plan) and she bore him Ishmael, the wild son. 

After Ishmael's birth, nothing is recorded. So far as we can gather from scripture, there were no brave acts of faith or noble deeds that following this sin. We do not find record of Abram doing anything significant, or having an audience with the LORD. Not until now, thirteen years later. It is here that God Almighty appears to Abram again. His purpose is to call him to obedience saying, "walk before me and be blameless." In so doing, "the LORD would bring [Abram] out of his state of distrust and distance into one of dignity and sanctity" by manifesting Himself to him. (Spurgeon)

God is a God of second chances. It's as if He was saying to Abram, "Let's try this again. Starting today, remembering that I see all things, I want you to strive for perfection. I am calling you to live your life in exemplary fashion, with impeccable integrity, with clean hands and a pure heart, untarnished and above reproach. Then, I will grant you increase." In His instruction, God was consecrating Abram to Himself; He was setting Abram apart for His purposes.

This command would have required Abram to have much trust in the LORD. Those of little trust usually have little obedience. "If we have grand conceptions of the glory of God, we shall learn to confide in Him most thoroughly, we shall receive mercies from Him most plentifully, and we shall be moved to serve Him most consistently. Sin at the bottom of it very frequently has origin in low thoughts of God." (Spurgeon) Abram's sin was just such an example. He could not fathom how God would fulfill His promise to bless he and Sarai with a son at her age and in her barrenness. So in lack of trust he sinned with Hagar. He seemed to forget who God was. That He is God Almighty, El Shaddai, the all sufficient One. Had he remembered and trusted, he would have stayed true to his wife and waited patiently with hope for the fulfillment of His promise. 

So God appears to Abram once again, this time calling him to a deeper level of trust. He is calling him to pursue true holiness. To consider God in all his actions, public and private. To not leave Him out of any equation, but instead sense His presence, seek His counsel, and serve His purposes only.

Living a sanctified or consecrated life is a high calling, but most pleasing to the One who paid a high price for my freedom and salvation. I too am called to pursue holiness; to walk blameless before the LORD. In order to do so, I must have a high view of God and offer Him my highest level of trust. It has been said, "The saint feels that he must not, dare not, transgress, because he is before the very face of God. This is the model of the sanctified character, for a man to realize what the Lord is, and then to act as in the immediate presence of a holy and jealous God." (Spurgeon)

The standard is perfection, because anything less would leave room for excuse. We are not told to be as good as we can be, for there would be room for error. We are called to be perfect (blameless), even as our Father in heaven is perfect...

"This God--His way is perfect." 2 Samuel 22:31, Psalm 18:30
"The law of the LORD is perfect..." Psalm 19:7
"You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48
" Jesus said to him, 'If you would be perfect, go sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'" Matthew 19:21

No one but Jesus has ever attained perfection, but it is the standard nonetheless, that every believer should strive for. Paul aspired to it in Philippians: "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own." God does not water it down due to our weakness. He calls us to rise above our flesh and weaknesses with sincerity and live to a higher standard, striving toward perfection.

Father God, I know I can never be perfect, but perfect is the standard I should aspire to. Forgive me Lord for the times my faith and trust have been lacking. God, I want to have a grand view of You! I want to believe that every thing You will in my life is possible. I need to trust You more. In Jesus' name, amen.

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