Responsive Reading: Genesis 18:6-19
Key Verse(s): John 15:15
Background Scripture: Genesis 15:1-5; 16:1-12; 18:1-5
Slow down and take your time – why are we always in such a rush? I suppose that the answer to that question would be that essentially our society – even the world itself – has forced that mindset onto us.
I was talking to a good friend the other week and we were talking about how big of a benefit it would be if we did not live in such a fast paced society. I can recall growing up and how we were being asked what we wanted to be when we grew up before we were even in kindergarten. Before we were out of elementary school, we were already being asked about what college we wanted to go to, even though few of us knew the name of a college or what college even was.
Always on the go, are we; so hasty to make decisions without ever truly thinking things through. There is a consequence to this in which sometimes things work out alright when we are in a rush but that outcome is very rare when one is in a rush. The believer, I would suggest to you, should always strive to move with clarity. The only way that we can move with clarity is if we slow down and think things through with clarity.
The believer that is always in a rush, is the believer that is quickly open to rushing into error (sin) which can hurt themselves and others as well. So, we should walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7); patience is a virtue and for the believer; it is the utmost of virtues. In patience we find clarity – we find understanding – that comes from the Lord.
The Danger of Hastiness
In my sermon last week – Take a Stand – we saw a blameless and upright man who struggled with finding clarity and understanding. He quickly rushed to believe that the Lord was against him and asked questions of the Lord. One such question that Job asked of God was this: “How does my sin affect you (Job 35:3)?”
I thought about Job’s question and concluded that our sin certainly affects the Lord. God grieves when we trespass against Him. Not only does the Lord grieve when we sin, but I would suggest to you that the world – all of us – even suffers from the sins of one another.
The book of Genesis is filled with how the sins of mankind not only grieves the Lord but causes pain and suffering for each other. First example I can think of off the top of my head was the sin of mankind during the days of Noah. Mankind’s sin pained the Lord and it hurt mankind because God was ready to destroy everything with the great flood. However, God chose to give mankind a second chance by saving Noah and his loved one (Gen. 6:5-8).
Abraham and Sarah’s great sin
Another example in the book of Genesis about how our sin not only grieves the Lord but grieves others is seen through Abraham and Sarah in their desire to have children – they desired to have an heir for Abraham.
Abraham and Sarah had spent several years trying to have children but Sarah, as we know, was unable to have children (Gen. 11:30; 16:1). This was something that frustrated Sarah greatly; she viewed this as a sign of not being favored in God’s eyes. So, Sarah did what many of us do today when we feel that we aren’t favored or being blessed by God. She first accused and blamed God because she felt that God was not blessing her by keeping her from being able to bear children (Gen. 16:2).
She then hastily took matters into her own hands and made a very hasty decision that would come back to pain and grieve her. She encouraged Abraham to be with Hagar so that Hagar could bear him an heir (Gen. 16:2). In her haste, Sarah did not fully understand the consequences of her actions as it not only ended up hurting her, but she ended up hurting Hagar, Ishmael (the son that was born through Hagar), and Abraham who was pained to let a son go. The world today is still feeling the end results of Sarah’s hastiness to give her husband an heir.
There are consequences to all of our actions but especially those done in haste. Again, I tell you, many of us move in the same exact way as Sarah when we feel that the Lord is not working in our favor. This thought takes me back to some questions that I asked in my sermon last week. Who are we to question the Lord? Who are we to tell God what is just (right) and unjust (wrong)? Who are we to tell God what to do and what not to do – when to move and when not to move?
Is our righteousness truly higher than the Lord that we would command these things of Him? Do we see ourselves as the bosses of God? As we saw last week, Job wished he was God’s boss and I would suggest to you that Sarah seemed to wish the same – in fact, most of us do! But I wonder, how can our righteousness be higher than the Lord when we do not understand the ways that He moves?
This is where our troubles begin: our lack of understanding the Lord and what He is doing. Because we do not understand, some of us begin to lose faith in the Lord. Once we start to lose faith, panic begins to set in and that panic turns into the feeling of needing to move and to move with haste because we want our blessing as soon as possible. In a panic, we move without clarity and we end up opening ourselves to error.
So, it would seem what we would need to do is find some clarity and, again, I tell you that the best way we can do this is by taking a moment to slow down and take our time. There is absolutely no need for you to ever be in a rush when the one who is mighty is already working on your behalf.
Clarity From God
This picture is painted for us through Abraham himself. Now, let’s not think for one second that Sarah was alone in making the hasty decision of moving ahead of God. When Sarah had accused the Lord of working against her, and encouraged Abraham to be with Hagar, Abraham did not question her hastiness; he went along with her.
This was a very terrible decision for Abraham because he had joined Sarah in her hastiness. What makes this worse is the fact that Abraham knew better because he had received word – a promise – from the Lord on this exact matter!
In his conversation with God, Abraham asked the Lord what would God give him seeing that he went childless and did not have a true heir (Gen. 15:2-3). The Lord responded to him with a promise to give him an heir that would come from his body (his seed). God told Abraham to count the stars as He then promised Abraham his number of descendants would be as the number of stars (Gen. 15:4-5).
After hearing this promise from God, scripture tells us that Abraham believed in what God had promised him (Gen. 15:6). Yet, Abraham moved with a lack of clarity because he did not wait on the Lord to move. Again, the end result ended up being that Sarah despised Hagar and Ishmael, the son that was born, which led to the two eventually being exiled (Gen. 16:5; 21:8-21).
Abraham believed he had done no wrong as Ishmael did come from his body but this was not what the Lord intended. All Abraham and Sarah managed to do was create a very confusing and frustrating situation – they made a mess of things. As Paul said, God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33).
When we move out of haste without the Lord, all we end up doing is making a mess of things. How happy are you when all you are left with is your own mess? You see, when you move out of haste and make a mess of things, there is rarely any happiness or joy. However, I can testify to you today that when things work out according to God’s will, without our interference, there is no mess; things go smoothly and our joy is fulfilled.
Clarity through fellowship
Rather than thinking or believing that the Lord does not favor us, let us remember that the Lord’s thoughts towards us are not evil but are of peace, to give us a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). Why does God think this way towards us?
In the lead up to our key verse, Jesus tells us that we, His disciples, are His friends because we do what He commands of us (John 15:14). So, in other words, we are in fellowship with Christ, and therefore, with the Lord.
What does it mean to be a friend of the Lord? Jesus tells us in our key verse that because we are His friends, He has made all things He heard from His Father known to us. I want you to understand that this speaks to God giving us, His friends, all clarity. This was not something new as, again, through the prophet Amos, God said that He does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants, the prophets, who then relayed what God was doing to the people. What God is doing for you, today, is relayed to you through the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit that abides with you.
What I want you to understand is that the Lord does not hide what He is doing from you; you just have to slow down and take your time – wait on Him! It often feels like we do not value our fellowship – our friendship – with the Lord because we often act out of haste rather than act out of faith!
God’s clear and certain message
In his day of haste, Abraham should have remembered that he was a friend of the Lord and that God would make things clear to him. As shown in scripture, after Ishmael was born of Hagar, the Lord spoke to Abraham again of the son of promise. This time, God said plainly to him that the son of promise would come through Sarah; she would be a mother of nations and kings of peoples would be from her (Gen. 17:15-16). So, God was making it clear to Abraham what He was doing, and I believe that if you were to slow down, the Lord will make it clear to you what He is doing for you.
Now, Abraham’s response during this conversation was one of disbelief – he fell on his face in laughter as he questioned God. Abraham was 99 years old and he just could not see (understand) how he and Sarah would have a child when she was just as old as him (Gen. 17:17). Abraham’s disbelief – his uncertainty – needed to be taken away.
So, one day Abraham was sitting in the door of his tent when the Lord and two angels appeared by him as three men to meet with Abraham in person (Gen. 18:1-2). This meeting, I would suggest to you, is representative of God communicating with man as friend to friend – being in fellowship together. This meeting, again I would suggest to you, is how the Holy Spirit meets with all of us on a spiritual level today. God was by Abraham as the Holy Spirit is by and with us today.
Abraham, we will notice, was compelled in his soul to treat the Lord and the two angels with great humility and hospitality; he offered them water to wash their feet (as was a custom) and brought them food to eat as well (Gen. 18:4-5). Abraham was happy because he believed he had now found favor in God’s sight (Gen. 18:3). I believe he misunderstood as he was always favored in the Lord’s eyes.
God then addressed Abraham’s lack of understanding and belief on the matter that was most dear to him. The Lord spoke to Abraham, again, of His promise saying, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son (Gen. 18:10).” This time Sarah, in another room, was the one that laughed (Gen. 18:12), however, Abraham did not laugh this time around.
Why was that? I believe it was because he now had clarity and understanding which gave him certainty. Abraham believed that God was going to do what He was saying He would do. The Lord even asked, because of Sarah’s laughter, “Is anything too hard for the Lord (Gen. 18:14)?” There is nothing too hard for God which is why you ought to slow down and take your time – wait on Him.
Reaching an Understanding
You see, I believe Abraham finally understood what the Lord was making clear. I want you to understand that all of us this was not necessarily about the baby but about trusting in what the Lord said He is going to do. God had made a promise to Abraham but rather than trusting in what the Lord had promised, he acted hastily and irrationally.
Do you trust in what the Lord says He is going to do for you? We think so little about acting hastily and rushing into sin, but sin is a very big deal; we should not take it so lightly. Therefore, being in a rush spiritually is not something we should take lightly – slow down, take your time. God will give us clarity so that we do not rush off to error against Him, ourselves, and those around us.
God keeps nothing secret from us
As the Lord and the two angels prepared to leave, the Lord said to Himself, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing (Gen. 18:17)?” As we saw in our key verse, through Christ, we know that God will not hide anything from us because we are His friends. We are in fellowship with Him and in our relationship with Him, He keeps no secrets!
God did not hide from Abraham what He was about to do. The reason being, I believe, is because He did not want to see His friend continue to act irrationally. In scripture, we will see that the Lord also stated that Abraham was about to have much influence throughout the world (Gen. 18:18). The Lord would be testified of if Abraham would simply be obedient and trust in the Lord’s words.
God desires this same thing of us – not to act hastily and irrationally but to trust Him, His words, and what He is doing. Though we may question the Lord all the time, God has actually hidden nothing from us; He keeps nothing secret. Jesus said to us that if we abide in His word and His word abide in us, we will ask what we desire and it will be given to us (John 15:8).
Again I ask, do you trust that God will do what He says He will do? All we have to do is trust in the Lord and His blessing will surely come forth to us.
Move with certainty
Therefore, because we know that the Lord is going to bless us, there really is no need for us to ever act irrationally; just slow down in those moments of uncertainty and a lack of understanding, and wait for clarity from the Lord. As I often say to you, the Lord is faithful and will not ever fail you.
I am reminded of the lyrics to an old hymn that I love to sing and hear. We sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” These lyrics speak to our fellowship with Jesus and how He is there to bear all of what we go through as a good friend.
We then sing, “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer.” This speaks to the truth in life that we are going to have hardships and times where we lack understanding or maybe move irrationally. However, again, Jesus is a good friend that we should turn to to uplift us and give us clarity in those times.
Lastly, we sing, “Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.” The Lord is ever faithful to us, and is always with us. The only time that the Lord is not by our side is when we choose to go and rush off from Him – slow down, take your time, and wait on Him! See how much doing that will actually benefit you.
God is that trustworthy and good friend who we can lean on, depend on, and trust in at all times – especially in those times of uncertainty, where we lack clarity, and are filled with doubt. We should never move in a panic and out of doubt – nothing good will come forth. The believer should move with clarity, understanding, and certainty; we can do so by trusting, leaning, and depending on the Lord.