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God’s covenant is a binding and contractual promise between God and Abraham. There are many blessings promised to Abraham, and all Abrham has to do is to walk with God faithfully and blamelessly and to circumcise all males. Abraham’s ultimate response is obedience. Physical circumcision is no longer required but circumcision of our hearts is required.
Abraham and Sarah got tired of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled and tried to take control. They began to focus on themselves, they stopped caring for others, such as Hagar. But God cared for her, and unlike Abraham and Sarah, calls her by her name.
When God makes his covenant with Abraham, he makes his promises on his own terms, and he kept his promises when the Israelites came out of Egypt. We too have promises from God, and just as the promises to Abraham weren’t fulfilled for 400 years, we also have to wait for our promises to be fulfilled. In the meantime, what steps of faith is God calling us to take as individuals?
Abraham believed God, not just as a cold hard fact but in a personal relational sense. Like Abraham, we can trust God when we can’t see the way out of our situation and are tempted to try to find our own way out. We are considered righteous by God’s grace through faith, not through our works or our efforts.
It can sometimes look as if worldly powers are king, but the Bible says that we reign in life. Abraham recognised Melchizedek as greater than he himself was, and Melchizedek points to Jesus. Jesus is king. We say that with our mouths, but is he really king over our lives? Do we really submit our entire lives to him?
The women physically looked up and saw the stone was rolled away. We can figuratively look up and see Jesus. We are all searching for different things, but the women were searching for Jesus. What are we chasing after?
How do we get back on track with God? By repenting and putting God first, by being willing to make hard decisions rather than drifting when we meet with challenges and by walking by faith like Abraham, rather than walking by sight like Lot.
Jesus is the good shepherd. Biblical shepherds led their sheep from the front, and knew each one by name, and the sheep knew his voice. We are invited to come and feed. Good shepherds lead by example, protect the flock, encourage the whole church to be a shepherding community, anoint with oil, and lay down their lives for the sheep.
Abraham and Sarah saw famine and there were hard decisions to be made, but they also saw the grace and sovereignty of God. Living in God’s promises doesn’t make us immune to hardship, and the grace and sovereignty of God doesn’t mean we are free from sin and bad choices. God’s grace can come through very strange means - it sees the vulnerable and covers over all sins.
Abraham didn’t make the decision to move; it was God who took the initiative. Abraham was nobody special and was slow to obey God. Nevertheless, he trusted God, and we also should trust God even when we don’t understand what God is doing. So let’s follow Abraham’s example of a life a faith, a life of obedience and life of worship.
We need to learn how to lament. We can do this by using our own words or by using some of the lament psalms that have been given us to help us pray. We need to make a deliberate decision to turn to the Lord, bring our complaint to him, make definite clear requests, and choose to trust him.
God delights in restoring those who have wandered away. We should be a people of real concern, who care for those wandering from the truth; a people of real discretion in confronting them; and a people of real zeal for bringing them back.
James encourages us to pray. He tells us to pray for ourselves and for one another, and the sick are to call for the elders to pray for them. We are to come to God in faith, in repentance, in honesty and in humility.
Some of us may have been excluded for being Christians, whilst others may have experienced more intense suffering. James calls us to be patient, but he is not insensitive to suffering, nor is he telling us to be inactive. To cope with suffering, we need to learn how to lament. Our ultimate hope is the return of Jesus.
We should not put our trust or find our security in possessions. We should be rich towards God, and generous with our wealth. We should not be complicit in oppressing the poor by our shopping habits. God is not against us having money, but wants us to use wealth for his glory and his kingdom.