Why Does God Make Me Wait for Justice?

And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  Genesis 15:16  ESV

Many stumble over God because He waits so long to judge evil.  Those who suffer at the hands of others cry out to God for deliverance.  The pain is unbearable.  The damage seems irreparable.  The thought of it having no end seems unthinkable.  They believe that God should have already done something because a good Father promises to protect His people.  It’s difficult to explain God’s reasons for when and how he metes out justice.  Who can know the mind of God! 

Today’s scripture provides a context for long-standing evil. The 400 years of Jewish slavery in Egypt is foretold to Abram.  God reveals that He will not bring them out of slavery until the iniquity of the Amorites is complete.  The Amorites are the ones who possess Canaan, the Promised Land.  Their heinous sins will grow slowly over the course of six generations.  There will be a limit, however, to what God allows.  When their iniquity reaches the heights of notoriety, God will strike through the warfare of His people coming against the giants of the land.

From this story, there are a couple of things I can conclude.  1. God does allow some evil to run a long course and His people are oppressed for a time.  2. He waits to judge because His heart is merciful, and He gives all mankind innumerable chances to hear His call and respond with repentance.  3. He allows evil to become blatant so that when He strikes, the message is clear about the consequences of sin.  4. With judgment, God’s power, justice, holiness, and glory are on full display.

As I look back on my own life, only in hindsight do I understand a little of why God restrained justice.  While I waited, I learned about the nature of evil.  The longer I suffered, the more wisdom became mine.  When God moved, I could see that freedom came right on time.  It was a knowing in my spirit even though many of my questions remained.  The real test came in the waiting, in the middle of the pain and the unanswered questions.  The test was whether I could say that God was good and was doing all things well, even though there was little visible evidence.

When you and I don’t understand His mind nor His seeming inactivity, we can know that He has good reasons for how He chooses to rule.  In the end, heaven will reveal that God loved every one of us perfectly.

I pray right now for everyone who is suffering under the hand of evil.  Increase their faith.  Restore their trust.  Resurrect their cries for deliverance.  Oh Lord, judge the wicked and come to the aid of Your people.  Amen

Abram, God, Me & The Covenant

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram…   Genesis 15:7-12  ESV

God cut a covenant with Abram to confirm the validity of all He had promised him.  It was a blood offering, a blood oath.  From that day on, there would be vows in place between God and Abram because of this ceremony.  The ritual of cutting a covenant meant that each party was pledging all they were and all they owned to be forever available to the other person.  Abram gave up all rights to himself and offered God the wealth of all he owned (exhibited by sacrificing the best of his flock for the covenant ceremony itself) as well as all rights to himself.  He was no longer master of his own life but permanently put himself at God’s disposal.

A new covenant was cut at Calvary.  Blood was shed again, except now it wasn’t the blood of animals, it was the blood of God’s own Son.  When I embraced Jesus and came to God through the way of the cross, I took part in the covenant He offered just as tangibly as Abram and God enacted their ceremony.  If I belong to Christ today, the covenant is firmly in place and this is what it means.

Lord, I am completely yours.  I give up all rights to myself and like Abram, I am listening for Your voice to lead me on my journey.  All I am and all I have is Yours.  I am at Your disposal for always.

God’s response.   And all I am is yours!  All I have is yours.  The resources of heaven are at your disposal.  Like Abram, you are on a journey and there will be hardships but hold on, you will inherit the land.  You are an heir of everything I have given my Son.  Defer your hope to eternal things.  Because of our covenant, I have your back.  I will protect and keep you, and totally provide for you. 

Who benefits most from this covenant?  Me, for sure!  Yet, throughout my journey with God, I break the fidelity of our covenant exchange.  In ancient times, the penalty was death.  But God even took care of that.  Jesus died in my place for all the times I would be unfaithful.   Covenant love is not threatened by my poor performance or my failing heart.

I can’t tell you how many times I have thought, “Oh, how costly is my salvation.  I must give up all rights to myself and to my life?”  That is tragically skewed.  Did I only consider my part in the covenant?  Apparently.  I forgot that God promised me all of Himself and everything He owns. 

Forgive me for counting the cost and thinking the price is too high.  I am the beneficiary of everything eternal.  Amen

Times of Wonder and the In-Betweens

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”  Genesis 15:7-8  ESV

Because of Jesus’ harsh words in the Gospels about asking for a sign, I can wrongly conclude that asking for such a thing is displeasing to God.  But this story is just one passage in the Old Testament that proves God gladly gives signs.  The difference between an acceptable request and an unacceptable request is the kind of heart that asks.

Abram had already believed God, so much so that God had declared him righteous.  The sign he asked for was a commemorative event that would forever serve to remind him that God’s promise would come true.

An unacceptable request for a sign comes from unbelief.  You’ve heard people say such things.  “When God comes down here Himself to tell me, then I’ll believe it!”  With such statements, there is no humility, no trace of true searching.  The undertone smacks of blasphemy.

If signs were evil, then why would God give Jesus as a sign?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Is.7:14   When His people, in the context of relationship, looked longingly for salvation, God gave the best sign of all.  His only Son!

Perhaps God has spoken to you about your future.  You know that God does not lie.  You know that God is a covenant-keeping God.  You have been standing in faith, watching for the fulfillment of what He has promised.  But let’s face it, there are discouraging days.  We have an enemy who assaults us on all sides and undermines God’s character.  Our hearts can faint even though at the core of our spirit, we still believe.  We cry out to God for a sign, for a commemorative event that will strengthen our weakened hearts. God knows the deep weariness that plagues His people during steep obedience.  He is the one who sent angels to minister to Jesus in the wilderness when He was depleted and weary.   He is the Father who rewards faith with signs and answered prayers.

You are the Father who rewards my faith with signs, wonders, and answered prayers.  In between, give me the grace for sustaining faith.  Amen

Am I Still A Woman Of Faith?

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.  Genesis 15:6  ESV

Abraham believed God for what he didn’t have (an heir and descendants), and for what he could never have without God making it happen.  That was called faith. God was so overjoyed by Abram’s faith that he declared him righteous on the spot.  God made it as though Abram lived on the other side of the cross, already wearing Christ’s righteousness.  Only Abram in all of history, prior to the death of Christ, was justified and declared righteous.  The rest of God’s followers made continual sacrifices to cover their sins, but their sins weren’t taken away for another thousand years.

This tells me, through story form, how much God prizes faith.  Am I believing God today for something I don’t have, for something I could never have without a gift from God’s hand?  Have I put everything on the line – waiting for God to move?  That is how faith looks. 

When I embraced Jesus as my Savior, I believed that He would forgive me and adopt me as His own.  These were things I couldn’t earn nor accomplish in any way for myself.  I laid everything on the line for what God promised to do for me.  That was my first great act of faith.  But my life is to be marked by daily acts of faith.  It’s tragic when I enter the kingdom by faith only to live the rest of my life attempting to control things.  I miss out on the miracles and the amazement!

In the mid-90s, I put everything on the line.  Many things crumbled all around me.  I could have shut down, curled up in a ball, decided to live with a deadened heart, or I could decide to cast my life upon Jesus and cry out for what I would never have without His intervention.  I’m so glad I made the third choice.

I look again at my life this morning.  I examine what appears hopeless, where I believe nothing can ever change.  This is where faith can be born.  I take my unbelief, speak God’s words over my dark thoughts, and cast all my hopes on Christ. 

Faith is not rational.  It appears ludicrous to anyone watching.  That’s okay, Jesus.  Faith is a supernatural thing, fed on the diet of Your Word and the breath of Your Spirit.  Amen

Praying For What I’ve Stopped Praying For

But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”  Genesis 15:2  ESV

Abandoning prayer about anything is a mistake but abandoning prayer for what I’m most in need of is a grave error.  Prayerlessness is the result of unbelief.  I have concluded that God can’t, or won’t, do anything good for me.  When I read God’s promises, I can be a skeptic, because they are so far out of my reach. 

God promised Abram an heir, with descendants as numerous as the sands of the sea.  The thought of this must have seemed ludicrous to Abram because, at that point, his only heir was a slave of his household.  He and his wife, Sarah, were too old to bear children.  Yet in spite of this obstacle, Abram believed and his faith that God could do the impossible was credited to him as righteousness.

I frequently ask myself where I have lost faith in God.  When captivity spans 15 years, when infertility enters the second decade of a marriage, when a wayward child doesn’t call home in years, when depression becomes a way of life, when financial struggles become the norm, when the family experiences a seemingly irreparable breach, these are the kinds of things that tempt me to lose faith. 

I need to hear the voice of the God of Abraham.  He lives in Spirit form, right in my own heart.  He’s speaking constantly, wooing me to believe, wooing me to hope in Him again.  He is the One who does the impossible as He rewards the ones who persevere in prayer.

At this moment, the embers of faith are stirring in someone reading this.  Is it you?  Tears of relief are in your eyes as you realize that deep discouragement no longer need be your friend.  You can be fully alive to God, fully alive to faith, once again!  As you and I look at a few of the sad themes of our lives, we can numb out and feel nothing.  That is the very area where prayers of faith need to live.

I infuse my unbelief with your hope-giving Word.  Amen

When Peacemakers Become Fighters

When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men…  Genesis 14:14  ESV

Abram surprises us when he takes up arms to fight.  He has always been a peacemaker.  No one who read his story in the preceding chapters would have any idea that he had a small, trained army within his own household.  Now, they are revealed and are released to go fight the enemies who have taken his nephew, Lot, captive.  Though Abram’s men are greatly outnumbered, they are fierce warriors with God on their side.  They will defeat the captors and free Lot.  This will not be the first or last time we will see God astound us.

It’s always a shock when a peacemaker is willing to fight.  It’s equally shocking when a fighter lays down his sword and pulls a chair up to the table to seek peace. Both have earned a reputation for responding to life in their own preferred way.

Each of us is bent, because of our personality, more toward one than the other.  Gentle spirits love peace and hate conflict.  Feisty spirits love a good fight and see those who seek peace as being weak.  We build a track record for only responding one way and those around us count on us to react as we have always done.  I am a peacemaker, by nature, and not easily inflamed.  It takes a lot to anger me and while that can appear admirable, I will tell you that it can be a fault.  A friend once told me, after hearing a few stories about a time when I had been badly harassed by someone, that I was patient to a fault.  She was right.

A balanced child of God, one who is like Jesus, does not act solely out of his personality type.  He listens to Jesus and follows Him even when he is asked to do something he finds more difficult.  A fighter needs to learn to be still.  A peacemaker needs to learn how to fight.  There is a time to take the hill and there is a time to show restraint.

 Many of us can live our lives thinking that the bents of our personality are the best traits.  May we meet in the middle?  Both are needed and both, acting under the direction of the Spirit, play pivotal roles in the purposes of God.

Teach me when to fight and not retreat.  Give me the boldness to step outside of my peacemaker box.  Amen