Friday, 7 January 2011

Seeking God’s Heart and Ways in Prayer and Praise

Finally after decades of waiting, the LORD appears to Abraham in Genesis 18 and says that within the year, he will have a son. The LORD also has a fellowship meal with him. Sarah laughs as she listens in, surprised and overwhelmed that she should (finally) have the privilege of participating in the seed-line of God. The LORD does not rebuke her for this laughter; (the Hebrew is more generous than our translations, apparently) rather he enjoys her humble incredulity and tenderly encourages her mirth.

Abraham then walks with the LORD and two angels down towards Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham utters his famous prayer to the LORD, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Abraham isn’t merely interested in saving the life of his compromised nephew. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not just any old natural catastrophe, but a picture of the final judgement that will come at the end of the age. Abraham is asking God more fundamentally if he will really preserve the righteous to eternal life.

The two angels (messengers) go down to Sodom and Gomorrah. My guess would be that, on arrival, the angels declare God’s intention to the elders at the city gate to overthrow the city for her deep rooted arrogance before God, a claim which would have so incensed the inhabitants, that by the time the angels are under Lot's roof, (the only guy who would even consider the idea of showing them hospitality) the whole city has come out (every man), not for some cheap sexual thrill, but to humiliate them. (Rape is a dark form of domination.)

The angels strike the inhabitants with blindness – symbolic of their utter lack of right judgement. Lot’s sons-in-law (he has allowed his daughters to marry ungodly men) laugh when he pleas with them to leave with him – another symbol of total lack of wisdom. Even Lot himself hesitates, such that the angels have to kick him out – he is such a compromised man.

Then we get one of the great Trinitarian verses of the Old Testament (Gen 19:24) The LORD (Christ standing on the hills above Sodom and Gomorrah where he had stood with Abraham) rained down sulphur from the LORD (Father) out of Heaven. It is impossible to read that verse any other way without hijacking it.

Lot’s wife looks back as she flees this City of Man – longing for what she leaves behind. What she longs for is not good and God judges her. Lot spends his last days ruined. His daughters take advantage of him to raise up a name for them. He is a man of faith, but utterly compromised, and will enter the kingdom with singed buttocks.

In Genesis 20, Satan makes one last attempt to foil the bringing forth of Abraham’s promised son, by stirring up Abimelech, the king of the Philistines to steal Abraham’s wife. We see an almost identical repeat of the incident with Pharaoh in Gen 12, but this time, instead of driving them from the land, Abimelech offers them the best of his land – some say that through the experience, unlike Pharaoh, he is converted to the God of Abraham.

The Psalmist echoes something of Abraham’s prayer in Genesis 18 in asking for the judgement of the wicked and the deliverance of the righteous out of the hands of their enemies.

In Matt 4, mighty yet humble Jesus uses scripture to rebuke Satan’s temptations. If scripture is good enough for the Son of God, it’s good enough for us too. See how he loves the Father, and never moves himself out from under his authority. See how he is victorious over that old enemy the serpent - the accuser of the faithful! I wouldn't have lasted 40mins let alone 40 days! What awesome saviour!

The Apostles pray scripture (Psalm 2) back to God and they ask not for the favour of men, but simple boldness in proclamation. (I want to be liked too much to dare to pray these kinds of prayers.) Simple boldness leads to simple brotherly kindness as they all share everything they have together – that’s what family does!

Abraham, the Psalmist, Jesus and the Apostles all seek the face of God through what God has revealed to them by his Word. This is their confidence in prevailing with him and "bending his ear."

Christian, are your prayers, praise and proclamations over your life soaked in Bible verses or the (pleasant) sentimental notions of your own imagination?

1 comment:

Kinga said...

This is really good. Thanks. :-)