This unusual meeting between Abraham and three men is actually a divine encounter in which God takes on human form. On rare occasions in the Old Testament, God appears in some physical way to get his point across. (This kind of communication culminated 2,000 years later when Jesus of Nazareth was born; one of his titles was Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”)
Perhaps you’re thinking that you’d have no problem believing in God if he were to appear to you miraculously. But neither Abraham nor Sarah viewed this encounter as a summit meeting with God. As a matter of fact, Sarah was quick with a doubter’s laugh (as Abraham had been; see Genesis 17:17) and even lied right to God’s face.
Be cautious of the unusual or bizarre in the spiritual realm. Faith that is built primarily on such infrequent happenings doesn’t have a solid foundation. God can and sometimes will do unexpected things that will affect you personally. As you seek out God’s direction in your life, you’ll discover him at work in the everyday occurrences. And it’s the perception of God’s hand in everything you do that provides the firmest foundation for building your faith.
Taken from NIV The Journey Bible
Prayer Is for Sinners
“Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)
God answers the prayers of sinners, not perfect people. And you can become perfectly paralyzed in your praying if you do not focus on the cross and realize this.
I could show it from numerous Old Testament texts where God hears the cry of his sinful people, whose very sins had gotten them into the trouble from which they are crying for deliverance (for example, Psalm 38:4, 15; 40:12–13; 107:11–13). But let me show it from Luke 11 — in two ways:
In this version of the Lord’s Prayer (verses 2–4) Jesus says, “When you pray say” . . . and then in verse 4 he includes this petition, “and forgive us our sins.” So, if you connect the beginning of the prayer with the middle, what he says is, “Whenever you pray say . . . forgive us our sins.”
I take this to mean that this should be as much a part of all our praying as “Hallowed be thy name.” Which means that Jesus assumes that we need to seek forgiveness virtually every time we pray.
In other words, we are always sinners. Nothing we do is perfect. As Martin Luther said, on his deathbed, “We are beggars, this is true.” It doesn’t matter how obedient we have been before we pray. We always come to the Lord as sinners — all of us. And God does not turn away the prayers of sinners when they pray like this.
The second place I see this taught here is in verse 13: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Jesus calls his disciples “evil.” Pretty strong language. And he did not mean that they were out of fellowship with him. He did not mean that their prayers could not be answered.
He meant that as long as this fallen age lasts, even his own disciples will have an evil bent that pollutes everything they do, but doesn’t keep them from doing much good.
We are simultaneously evil and redeemed. We are gradually overcoming our evil by the power of the Holy Spirit. But our native corruption is not obliterated by conversion.
We are sinners and we are beggars. And if we recognize this sin, fight it, and cling to the cross of Christ as our hope, then God will hear us and answer our prayers.
Elihu continues to make his case in explaining Job’s suffering.
A Further Word
“So teach the rest of us what to say to God. We are too ignorant to make our own arguments. Should God be notified that I want to speak? Can people even speak when they are confused? We cannot look at the sun, for it shines brightly in the sky when the wind clears away the clouds. So also, golden splendor comes from the mountain of God. He is clothed in dazzling splendor. We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty; but even though he is just and righteous, he does not destroy us. No wonder people everywhere fear him. All who are wise show him reverence.”
Elihu stressed God’s sovereignty over all of nature as a reminder of his sovereignty over our lives. God is in control—he directs, preserves, and maintains his created order. Although we cannot see it, God is divinely governing the moral and political affairs of people as well. By spending time observing the majestic and intricate parts of God’s creation, we can witness his power in every aspect of our lives.
Elihu concluded his speech by affirming that faith in God is far more important than having an explanation for Job’s suffering. Significantly, it is here that God himself broke into the discussion to draw the right conclusions from this important truth (Job 38:1ff).
Nothing can compare to God. His power and presence are awesome, and when he speaks, we must listen. Too often we presume to speak for God (as Job’s friends did), to put words in his mouth, to take him for granted, or to interpret his silence as absence or indifference. But God cares. He is in control, and he will speak. Be ready to hear God’s message to you—in the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, and through circumstances and relationships.
As you read the Word, ask God to speak to you. Then be ready to respond to what he says.
Streams in the Desert – June 10
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, (Rom 8:28)
How wide is this assertion of the Apostle Paul! He does not say, “We know that some things,” or “most things,” or “joyous things,” but “ALL things.” From the minutest to the most momentous; from the humblest event in daily providence to the great crisis hours in grace.
And all things “work’—they are working; not all things have worked, or shall work; but it is a present operation.
At this very moment, when some voice may be saying, “Thy judgments are a great deep,” the angels above, who are watching the development of the great plan, are with folded wings exclaiming, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” (Ps. 145:17)
And then all things “work together.” It is a beautiful blending. Many different colors, in themselves raw and unsightly, are required in order to weave the harmonious pattern.
Many separate tones and notes of music, even discords and dissonances, are required to make up the harmonious anthem.
Many separate wheels and joints are required to make the piece of machinery. Take a thread separately, or a note separately, or a wheel or a tooth of a wheel separately, and there may be neither use nor beauty discernible.
But complete the web, combine the notes, put together the separate parts of steel and iron, and you see how perfect and symmetrical is the result. Here is the lesson for faith: “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.”
In one thousand trials it is not five hundred of them that work for the believer’s good, but nine hundred and ninety-nine of them, and one beside.
“GOD MEANT IT UNTO GOOD” (Gen. 50:20).
“God meant it unto good”—O blest assurance,
Falling like sunshine all across life’s way,
Touching with Heaven’s gold earth’s darkest storm clouds,
Bringing fresh peace and comfort day by day.
’Twas not by chance the hands of faithless brethren
Sold Joseph captive to a foreign land;
Nor was it chance which, after years of suffering,
Brought him before the monarch’s throne to stand.
One Eye all-seeing saw the need of thousands,
And planned to meet it through that one lone soul;
And through the weary days of prison bondage
Was working towards the great and glorious goal.
As yet the end was hidden from the captive,
The iron entered even to his soul;
His eye could scan the present path of sorrow,
Not yet his gaze might rest upon the whole.
Faith failed not through those long, dark days of waiting,
His trust in God was recompensed at last,
The moment came when God led forth his servant
To succour many, all his sufferings past.
“It was not you but God, that sent me hither,”
Witnessed triumphant faith in after days;
“God meant it unto good,” no “second causes”
Mingled their discord with his song of praise.
“God means it unto good” for thee, beloved,
The God of Joseph is the same today;
His love permits afflictions strange and bitter,
His hand is guiding through the unknown way.
Thy Lord, who sees the end from the beginning,
Hath purposes for thee of love untold.
Then place thy hand in His and follow fearless,
Till thou the riches of His grace behold.
There, when thou standest in the Home of Glory,
And all life’s path ties open to thy gaze,
Thine eyes shall see the hand which now thou trustest,
And magnify His love through endless days.
—Freda Hanbury Allen