Thursdays With Spurgeon—Wart Warning

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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Wart Warning  

     At the instigation of his wife, Abraham adopted means that were not justifiable in order that he might obtain the promised heir [see Genesis 16]. He used means that may not be so vicious to him as they would be in men of modern times, but that were suggested by an unbelieving policy and were fraught with evil. He takes Hager to wife. He could not leave it to God to give him the promised seed. He could not leave it with God to fulfill His promise in His own time and justifies himself in turning aside from the narrow path of faith to accomplish, by doubtful methods, the end that God Himself had promised and undertaken to accomplish! How shorn of splendor is Abraham seen when we read, ‘And Abraham heeded the voice of Sarah’ (Genesis 16:2). That business of Hagar is to the patriarch’s deep discredit and reflects no honor at all upon either him or his faith. 

     Look at the consequences of his unbelieving! Misery soon followed. Hager despises her mistress. Sarah throws all the blame on her husband. The poor bondwoman is so harshly dealt with that she flees from the household. … One marvels that such a man as Abraham allowed one who had been brought into such a relationship with him to be heedlessly chased from his house while in a condition requiring care and kindness! 

     We admire the truthfulness of the Holy Spirit that He has been pleased to record the faults of the saints without extenuating them. Biographies of good men in Scripture are written with unflinching integrity—their evil recorded as well as their good. These faults are not written that we may say, ‘Abraham did so-and-so; therefore we may do it.’ No, brothers and sisters, the lives of these good men are warnings to us as well as examples, and we are to judge them as we should judge ourselves—by the laws of right and wrong.

From Consecration To God

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I also talk about the faults that we see in God’s leaders. In looking at David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Elijah’s slide into depression, and Peter’s denial of Jesus, I see something similar: They were alone. 

David stayed in Jerusalem while his army went to fight, Elijah left his servant behind and went into the wilderness alone, and Peter was separated from his fellow disciples. Just like with Abraham, all of these other men were brought back into close fellowship with God. But all of these men now have a “wart” on their biography. 

“God designed us to be in relationship with others. His statement to Adam in some of the earliest words of the Bible—‘It is not good for you to be alone’—are words for us still today. As I mentioned earlier [in my book], you will not find the word ‘saints’ in the singular in the New Testament. Instead, you will find such phrases as ‘one another,’ ‘each other,’ and ‘all together’ prominently displayed throughout the New Testament church. Let me say it again: God designed us to be in relationship with others. If you want to go far in your shepherding, you cannot try to go alone.” —from the chapter in Shepherd Leadership called ‘Going Farther’ 

Let’s be forewarned by these examples. Stay close to God, but also stay close to godly friends that will help you in the hard times. Don’t let a wart blemish your record.

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God Keeps His Word

…as He had said… (Genesis 21:1-7).

This thought—and even the phrase itself—permeates the Bible. From the very beginning of Time itself, whatever God says—happens!

His word is His bond: What He had promised (v. 1b). There are no loopholes, no equivocations. When God says it, it is signed, sealed, delivered!

When is His word accomplished? From the moment He says it. His word cannot be altered nor delayed. We simply wait for its fulfillment: At the very time God had promised (v. 2).

This also means that I must obey what God says. If His word is immutable, my faith and obedience must be just as steadfast. Just like Abraham: Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him (v. 4).

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would help remind us of everything God has said. The same Word that tells us God’s promises is also the same Word that sparks the faith to believe His Word (Romans 10:17). 

Get God’s Word.
Believe He will fulfill it in His timing. 
Obey everything He says.
Laugh in joy when you see His word accomplished: God has brought me laughter (v. 6)! 

New Name = New Nature

All throughout the Old Testament we find hints about Jesus. Then as the New Testament dawns, the brilliant light of Jesus makes sense of all the hints we had previously seen.

One of the way God hints at the arrival of Jesus and what He would do for mankind is found in the names of people. Hebrew names are interesting things. Sometimes they are quite literal. For instance…

    • A baby who was born at one of Israel’s lowest points was named Ichabod = God’s glory has departed.
    • A baby who was born with quite a lot of hair was named Esau = hairy baby.
    • Esau’s twin brother was hanging on to his heel when he was born, so they named him Jacob = the one who grabs the heel.

At other times God tells parents what to name their babies before they are born. These names tell a story in themselves of what is coming…

    • After a time of upheaval in Israel’s history, God directed the parents to give their son two names: Solomon (which means peace) and Jedidiah (which means beloved by God). This brought reassurance to the parents and to the country.
    • When God was about to bring a quick answer to a problem, He directed the parents to name their son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means God will bring the reward sooner than you think.

But what is most interesting to me is when God changes someone’s name to reflect the new nature in their life.

Abram’s name meant exalted father, but God changed his name to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. His wife’s birth name was Sarai (princess) and it was changed to Sarah (a noble woman).

In these name changes, two things happened (see Genesis 17:1-15):

  1. God put His own name into theirs. God’s name means I AM. We sometimes pronounce it Yahweh, but that is only a guess since the Jews wrote His name without the vowels. That means His name was the unpronounceable YHWH, sort of a breath-sound. So Abram became Abrahaaam and Sarah became Saraaaaah. 
  2. God took the burden off them and put it on Himself. It was no longer Abram’s responsibility to become an exalted father, or Sarai’s responsibility to make herself a princess. God said, “Only with Me in you can you become who I want you to be!”

As you follow Abraham and Sarah’s descendants, you will see time and time again God reminding people: You can’t do it on your own. You must have Me in you in order to live the life I have for you!

Hoshea was born as an Israelite slave in Egypt, yet his parents gave him this name that means deliverer. Before God could use Hoshea to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land, He first changed his name to Joshua, which means God is the ultimate deliverer.

Joshua in the BC Hebrew language is the same as Jesus in the AD Greek language.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of being able to fully deliver people not just from physical slavery, but from the eternal consequences of sin. Man cannot save himself, but Jesus Christ can.

That’s why when you surrender to Christ and allow Him to be your Lord and Master, He puts His name in you: CHRISTian! A new name, and a brand new nature because of what it means to have Christ in you.

Check out this video where I explain the cool story behind more name changes—

Unintended Consequences

Sometimes even with the best of intentions, our actions can create a series of events that we never anticipated. What’s worse, like a row of neatly arranged dominos, once the first one has been knocked over, it’s hard to stop the tumble of the other dominos.

Case in point: Abram (or Abraham, as he would come to be known later).

He followed God’s call to leave his homeland of Ur and travel to Canaan—the Promised Land. He came to Canaan as a fairly wealthy man, having built quite a portfolio in his home country. After he arrived, he built a couple of altars to God and things appeared to be going well.

Until the famine. [you can read the story for yourself here]

Then without asking God, Abram left Canaan and traveled to Egypt. This was the first domino to be knocked down. The rest that fell were the unintended consequences of this single decision.

Abram lied to the Egyptians about his wife, telling them that she was his sister. As a result, she was taken into Pharaoh’s harem. Did Pharaoh sleep with her? The Bible doesn’t say for sure. Was Sarai mad at Abram? The Bible doesn’t answer this one either, but I think we all know the answer to this question!

Abram got richer. Because Pharaoh was so happy with Sarai, Pharaoh gave him sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and servants.

But this newly acquired wealth caused yet another domino to fall.

Abram and his nephew Lot began to have arguments about their large herds of animals. To settle their dispute, they split up.

Another domino fell.

Lot, without Abram’s mentorship, moved near Sodom. He got caught up in its sinful lifestyle and lost everything he owned. All he had left were two daughters, who were wicked, manipulative young ladies.

And yet another domino.

Abram and Sarai couldn’t have children. So Sarai suggested that Abram sleep with Hagar, their Egyptian maid. Would Sarai have suggested this if Abram hadn’t abandoned her to Pharaoh? If they hadn’t gone to Egypt, Hagar wouldn’t even have been there!

And the final domino.

Hagar did get pregnant. But her son Ishmael became the father of the Arabic people. A race of people that is openly hostile to the Jewish people to this day.

So many unintended consequences. So many dominos knocked down because of just one decision.

I’m grateful that God made something good out of this, but what incredible pain and hardship exist to this day because of one decision 4000 years ago.

My takeaway: I need to lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all my heart and mind and do not rely on my own insight or understanding.

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