Answers to Life's Questions

Dec 29, 2008 at 05:21 o\clock

God's Timing

Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference:
Genesis 21:1-21 

Getting Ahead of God

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

It is sometimes disconcerting to board an airplane at the scheduled departure time and then have to endure a lengthy wait on the runway before being cleared for takeoff. Not only do you miss your appointments in a distant city, but you begin to wonder if the marvels of our space-age technology are so marvelous. Yet just as bad as an unscheduled delay would be an unscheduled hastening of the takeoff. You can imagine the turmoil if a flight scheduled for 2:00 o'clock departure left at 1:30. Getting ahead of what is designed can be just as devastating as falling behind.

Abraham was a great man of faith, a friend of God. When God called him to leave his homeland and go to an unknown destination, Abraham immediately obeyed. Later the Lord promised Abraham that his seed would be as numberless as the dust the earth. But Abraham remained childless. His only heir was Eliezer of Damascus, whom he had adopted. When he questioned God, Abraham was told, "This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own loins shall be thine heir. And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said to him, So shall thy seed be." Abraham believed this promise and the Lord counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:4-6). Yet Abraham and his wife suffered from the same frailties all humans do. After years of expectation and disappointment, they began to wonder if the divine promise was really true. Barren Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands. She had an Egyptian handmaid whose name was Hagar. Herself not able conceive, Sarah convinced Abraham to take Hagar as his wife that she might bear him a son.

Although this was a common practice in the Ancient Near East, nevertheless it was not the fulfillment of God's promise. The appointed time for the birth of Abraham's heir had not yet arrived, but Sarah wanted to force the issue. Shortly Abraham was presented with a son, but by Hagar, not Sarah. An angel of the Lord had previously instructed Hagar to name the child Ishmael. But the heavenly messenger also warned that the child would be a wild man and every man's hand would be against him.

It wasn't until twenty-four years later that the Lord performed a miracle for Sarah and the son of promise was born. Although Abraham was now one hundred years old, this was the promised time and Isaac was the promised son. On the eighth day Isaac was circumcised and months later Abraham made a great feast when the child was weaned. At this festive occasion the behavior of Ishmael betrayed his jealousy. He taunted his young half brother, mocked and ridiculed baby Isaac. As Sarah viewed this it raised her motherly dander. She demanded of her husband, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac" (Genesis 21:10).

This grieved Abraham very much for Ishmael was his own flesh and blood. But God comforted him assuring him that, although Isaac was indeed the promised seed, nevertheless God would also make of Ishmael a great nation. Thus, "Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water," and bid Hagar and the boy a sad good-bye (Genesis 21:14).

God was kind to Ishmael and providentially protected his mother and him. But it was clear that Isaac was the child of promise, not Ishmael. Ishmael was the result of the impatience of Abraham and Sarah. The wild man was born because this couple got ahead of God. They believed that God would provide the promised seed but mistakenly attempted to speed up God's timetable. God performs what He promises, but always in His own time. "Wait on the LORD be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD" (Psalm 27:14). That's good advice for us today.

MORNING HYMN
My Jesus, as Thou wilt!
O may Thy will be mine;
Into Thy hand of love
I would my all resign.
Thro' sorrow, or thro' joy,
Conduct me as Thine own;
And help me still to say,
My Lord, Thy will be done.

Dec 26, 2008 at 15:47 o\clock

Time with God

Source: Streams in the Desert
Scripture Reference:
Genesis 24:63-63 

Quiet Time with God

"And Isaac went out to meditate in the fields at eventide" (Gen. 24:63).

We should be better Christians if we were more alone; we should do more if we attempted less, and spent more time in retirement, and quiet waiting upon God. The world is too much with us; we are afflicted with the idea that we are doing nothing unless we are fussily running to and fro; we do not believe in "the calm retreat, the silent shade." As a people, we are of a very practical turn of mind; "we believe," as someone has said, "in having all our irons in the fire, and consider the time not spent between the anvil and the fire as lost, or much the same as lost." Yet no time is more profitably spent than that which is set apart for quiet musing, for talking with God, for looking up to Heaven. We cannot have too many of these open spaces in life, hours in which the soul is left accessible to any sweet thought or influence it may please God to send.

"Reverie," it has been said, "is the Sunday of the mind." Let us often in these days give our mind a "Sunday," in which it will do no manner of work but simply lie still, and look upward, and spread itself out before the Lord like Gideon's fleece, to be soaked and moistened with the dews of Heaven. Let there be intervals when we shall do nothing, think nothing, plan nothing, but just lay ourselves on the green lap of nature and "rest awhile."

Time so spent is not lost time. The fisherman cannot be said to be losing time when he is mending his nets, nor the mower when he takes a few minutes to sharpen his scythe at the top of the ridge. City men cannot do better than follow the example of Isaac, and, as often as they can, get away from the fret and fever of life into fields. Wearied with the heat and din, the noise and bustle, communion with nature is very grateful; it will have a calming, healing influence. A walk through the fields, a saunter by the seashore or across the daisy-sprinkled meadows, will purge your life from sordidness, and make the heart beat with new joy and hope.

"The little cares that fretted me,
I lost them yesterday,
. . . Out in the fields with God."

Chistmas Eve

BELLS ACROSS THE SNOW

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There's a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
'Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."
--Frances Ridley Havergal

 



This classic devotional is the unabridged edition of Streams in the Desert. This first edition was published in 1925 and the wording is preserved as originally written. Connotations of words may have changed over the years and are not meant to be offensive.