Saturday, October 11, 2014

Abraham: The Intercessor

Abraham is given a title in Scripture that no other person is given. He is called “a friend of God.” Jesus called Lazarus His friend in John 11:11 and calls friends of all who believe on Him and obey Him (John 15:13-15). But three in Scripture Abraham is called a friend of God! Let’s look at each one briefly:

1. In 2 Chronicles 20:7 His friendship is connected to Victory against the enemy.

2. In Isaiah 41:8 His friendship is connected to God’s Faithfulness!

3. In James 2:23 it is connected with a life of faith-living by faith.

But here in Genesis 18 we see the truth of John 15:13-15 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Because Abraham is a friend of God, The LORD doesn’t hide from Him what He was about to do. Psalm 25: 14 says, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” This name LORD is Jehovah and it is used here in this section at least seven times. It refers to the God of relationship, the covenant keeping God who desires to have a close relationship with each of His children! Notice too in Genesis 18:18-20 three things that God said about Abraham, Potential Greatness, Personal Intimacy, and Patterned Obedience. Because of Abraham’s close relationship as a friend of God, he could commune as friend with friend! He had Jehovah’s ear. 

We want to point out three things concerning Abraham’s Intercession:

The Occasion of Abraham’s Intercession
Where was Abraham (18:1)? Where was Lot (19:1)? Abraham was by the trees of Mamre. Mamre means “strength” or “causing fatness.” Mamre is 3,000 feet above sea level in the Judean mountains south of Jerusalem, while Sodom was on the plain of the Dead Sea, 700 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth, and so the two men looked down on the city literally and morally. This was a place of strength for Abraham. It was the place he moved his tent after Lot chose the well watered plains of Sodom and Gomorrah. James 4:4 reminds us that “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” 1 John 2:15 reminds us that friendship with the world leads to loving the things us this world. But this doesn’t happen all at once. Lot didn’t move right into Sodom, there was a progression in his downward slope! First he pitched His tent as far as Sodom, it began for Lot as a casual friendship with the world, but soon Lot became spotted with the world (James 1:27), then he became conformed to the world (Romans 12:1-2), no doubt trying to make a difference as one who sat in the gate (a public place of authority). But if we are going to be like Abraham we must pitch our tents toward the place of strength, Mamre, by the terebinth trees. These are oak trees which would remind us of the Cross at what took place there for us regarding this world, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14). If we want to be a friend of God this must be the place we go for our strength. Lot could not intercede for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah because he was not morally suited, but Abraham could! This might an application of 1Timothy 2:8, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

The Nature of the Intercession
Abraham had a heart like the prophet Samuel who would say, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23). This is the first time we see intercessory prayer in the Bible. To “intercede” is to plead the case of another person. Look at some of the features of intercessory prayer:

· His prayer was righteous prayer, meaning he was concerned for the glory of God (18:19, 23, 24, 25,   28).

· He appealed to the righteous character of God (18:23, Deut. 32:4).

· His prayer was in humility (18:27, 32, Is. 6:2, 66:2, 57:15, 1Pet. 5:5).

· His prayer was an compassionate prayer

· He was earnest and persevering in prayer- 6 times interceded for the cities starting out with 50 souls    and then 45, 40, 30, 20, and then 10. Abraham stopped asking before God stopped giving. 

· His interceding was bold (Heb. 4:16).

· His prayer was a lonely prayer. Think of the Lord in Mark 1:35 when He departed to a solitary place   to pray or in Mark 6:46 where He sent His disciples away in order to pray. How about Luke 5:16        when He withdrew by Himself into the wilderness to pray.

· He stood in the Gap - So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the    gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one (Ezekiel 22:30).

· It was a trusting prayer (18:33) with no doubting (James 1:6-8).

The Result of His Intercession
Chapter 19 is the result of Abraham interceding for Lot and his family. This reminds us that as we intercede we are trusting God to work! “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him ( Psalm 37:3-7).

Three important principles of righteousness become evident from this portion:

1. The righteous will practice and teach the righteousness of God (18:19).
2. The basis for the request was the righteous of God (18:25).
3. A small number of righteous believers can have a right influence (18:32).

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Stepping Stones in the Christian Life

Read | Luke 5:1-11
God's simple requests are often stepping-stones to life's greatest blessings. When Simon Peter said yes to Jesus two small requests, his whole mission changed from fisherman to fisher of men.

An unproductive night's work no doubt left Peter weary. Yet he willingly brought Jesus on board and then pushed his boat out from shore so the Teacher's words would carry to the crowd. When the Lord finished speaking, He told the experienced fisherman to head out to deeper water. Peter knew the timing for a good catch was wrong, but he obeyed and was blessed with not one, but two boatloads of fish. 

Often God's blessings result from our compliance with seemingly insignificant requests. Though we prefer He ask us to perform great tasks that will impact large crowds, obedience in small matters is our proving ground. If we refuse His prompting to perform some minor action, what reason have we given Him to trust us with a more important responsibility?

Had Peter refused to lend Jesus his boat or to risk a midday fishing expedition, he'd have missed the immediate blessing of a big catch and perhaps also the even greater opportunity to be Jesus disciple. Walking with the Lord every day for three years, Peter witnessed miracles more spectacular than anything he saw that first day: A blind man received sight, Lazarus was restored to life, and at Jesus urging, Peter himself walked on water. The disciple's courageous step off the boat and onto a raging, stormy sea was the result of saying yes every time God had made a small request.