Exceedingly Precious Promises
Tuesday, 19 April 2005
Mercy Amid Judgment
Now Playing: God must punish sin, but His mercy reaches out !
Topic: Ways of God
"And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me." (Exodus 9)

One of the great paradoxes of the Bible is God's compassionate practice of tempering judgment with mercy. If ever anyone deserved the biting edge of God's wrath, it was the Pharaoh of the exodus. He was cruel, vindictive, and hard-hearted. When Moses and Aaron appeared before him, seeking the release of the Israelites, Pharaoh was insolent and blasphemous. He deserved to be stricken by God. Yet he was spared through the plagues of blood, frogs, lice, flies, malignant livestock and boils.

Now once again the Lord instructed Moses to “rise up early the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let My people go” (Exodus 3). Yet another plague was to be inflicted on the Egyptians unless their king abandoned his insane rebellion against the Lord God. The first six plagues were accompanied by much suffering and humiliation. However, none of these had actually touched the lives of the Egyptians. This time, if Pharaoh did not relent, God would smite the people and their land with pestilence and they would be cut off from the earth.

Characteristic of God's mercy, the pestilence was not to begin immediately. Moses predicted, "Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.” God gave the Egyptian king time for reflection. Judgment was impending; but before it came, the mercy of God allowed the rebellious Pharaoh twenty-four hours to consider the folly of his resistance.

But God's mercy did not stop there. Every God-fearing Egyptian had opportunity to respond to God as well. Those servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord, probably as a result of the previous plagues, quickly sought shelter for their families and cattle. Those who regarded not the word of the Lord remained in the fields.

Wherever the word of God is heralded, the reaction is always the same. Some believe and receive; others ridicule and reject. When the Apostle Paul delivered his compelling address on Mars' Hill, some mocked, others delayed, and a few believed (Acts 17:32-34). Nowhere is this more emphatically stated than in the final chapter of the Acts. "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not" (Acts 28:24).

When the period of reflection and response was over, judgment came as promised. The thunder cracked, and the Lord sent hail and fire on the land of Egypt. So fierce was the hail and fire that upon impact great balls of fire ran along the ground. This pestilence smote both man and beast in the fields as well as the herbs and trees throughout Egypt. Yet the land of Goshen, where the people of God resided, was not touched. Neither were the Egyptians who had heeded the word of the Lord and took shelter—another instance of God's mercy, even during judgment.

Perhaps the greatest example of God's mercy in the midst of judgment is seen after the plague. Since many Egyptians had lost their lives, Pharaoh made a halfhearted, mock repentance in order to stay the mighty thunderings and hail. The flax and barley crops were completely destroyed, for the barley was in ear and the flax in bud. But the wheat and rye crops were yet in the ground and not destroyed. Those Egyptians who remained were not left without the hope of a harvest. That's the mercy of God!

Though Pharaoh's rebellion and insolence deserved the utter destruction of God's judgment, yet before, during, and after the plague of hail the mercy of God is evident. God's pity rests on men who have none on themselves. "The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:8-9). Let's thank Him today for His great mercy.

MORNING HYMN

There's a wideness in God's mercy,

Like the wideness of the sea

There's a kindness in His justice,

Which is more than liberty.

(from W. Kroll)

Posted by dondegr0 at 12:00 PM EDT
Wednesday, 13 April 2005
Getting Ahead of God
Now Playing: Do we trust God as to what He may allow in our life ?
Topic: Ways 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." (Genesis 21)

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.

(from W. Kroll)

Posted by dondegr0 at 10:24 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2005 8:50 AM EDT
Thursday, 27 January 2005
Not by Chance
Now Playing: Can we see God's purposes in our past & present circumstances ?
Topic: Ways of God
Not by Chance

Ruth 2:5-6

Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?" So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, "It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab."

Not by Chance

Nothing happens by chance. Take, for example, the blue whale. Longer than three dump trucks, heavier than 110 Honda Civics and with a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, this magnificent creature requires four tons of krill a day (that's three million calories) for its sustenance. Even a baby blue whale can put away 100 gallons of milk every 24 hours. When a blue whale surfaces, it takes in the largest breath of air of any living thing on the planet. Its spray shoots higher into the air than the height of a telephone pole. How did such a creature come into existence? Not by chance, you can be sure, but by a sovereign Creator's plan.

Neither did Boaz by chance come to his fields just in time to meet Ruth. He certainly didn't come with any intentions of finding a wife, but that was God's plan. Ruth, too, was simply doing what she needed to do for survival. In fact, until she spoke with Naomi, she wasn't even aware of Boaz's relationship with the family she had married into (2:19-20). But in God's plans nothing happens by chance.

Sometimes our circumstances seem to come about by chance. We think, If I had made this decision instead of that decision, my life would be different. Or, If I'd been here instead of there, this wouldn't have happened. While we cannot use this as an excuse for making poor decisions, we can have the confidence that nothing happens by chance. Take care of your responsibilities in a way that honors God, and He will work out His plan through you.

If you are struggling with the "what ifs" of life, put them aside. Be assured that God is working out His plan for you, and it won't be by chance.

Since God is in charge, nothing is by chance.

(from W. Kroll)

Posted by dondegr0 at 9:45 AM EST

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