Technology let me down tonight. For some reason (maybe the more religious would say it was God’s will?) the computer was running really slowly. I had to shut it down and try again. Even that took 20 minutes. So the time I was going to spend reading, thinking and writing I spent staring at the computer waiting for it to shut down.
So here are tonight’s thoughts, even shorter than usual!
Genesis 20 and 21 tell the story of Abraham as he begins to establish his nation. First he tells his wife Sarah (who, it turns out, is also his half sister) to marry King Abimelech. Now I was a bit puzzled by this. Abraham said that if he told them Sarah was HIS wife, they’d kill her. So he told her to marry the King? Anyway, God intervened and the marriage was never consummated. The King was so relieved at his near miss (he knew Abraham was a prophet) that he gave Abraham animals, land, silver coins and (of course) Sarah.
God rewarded the King by healing the women of that land, who (since the wedding) had been barren. On second thoughts, that all made sense. So by the end, Abraham has got land, money, a family and most importantly a son, Isaac!
But Hagar made fun of Isaac. Why, why oh why, you silly woman? Not surprisingly, Abraham sent her away with his son Ishmael and a bag of water. She wonders in the desert until the water runs out and she thinks they are going to die. But God has other plans and gives them a well. And so they are safe and Ishmael marries a woman from Egypt.
Meanwhile, the familiar story of Abraham and Isaac and the ram in the thorn bush. Genesis 22. Why does the Lord want to test Abraham? He’s given his wife to be other people’s wives at least twice. But it seems God still wants to test him further. Would he kill his only son at God’s command? Yes, he would. Nothing in the reading tells us why he would test Abraham like this.
God tests US daily and there doesn’t seem to be any reason. We are tested and the results of the tests are not published in national league tables. The results are known only to you and God. Only God knows why and, on Judgement Day, we can dare to ask why. Until then, we just try our best to do the right thing. Don’t we?
Matthew 7 finishes the Sermon on the Mount with Jesus’ words of encouragement. How can we recognise false prophets? By their actions. Simple. Listen to them, watch what they do. Is it right, proper and just? And Jesus talks about Judgement Day too, which is a coincidence because so did I earlier. On that day, those who have done the will of the Lord will enter Heaven. Even the ones who cry “Lord, Lord” will not enter if they have not done the will of the Father.
When my wife and I got married, 20 years this year in fact, we had this as our reading at the wedding. Matthew 7:24 -27. It’s the wise man and the foolish man. Basically, it doesn’t matter how nice the house is. If the foundations are rubbish, the house will fall down. If you don’t put in the groundwork and the preparation the result will be failure.
Psalm 9 is a lovely encouragement to all who trust the Lord. The enemy is defeated and the Lord will not abandon those who seek him. Verse 11 is relevant here: “…Tell the world about his unforgettable deeds.”
Finally, Proverbs 2:16-22 tells us some more words of wisdom. It likens ignorance to an immoral woman. She will lead you astray and to death. But following the trustworthy leads to righteousness.
I’m reminded of Sarah here. I’m still troubled by how easily she left Abraham and married the King. Was she immoral for doing this? Did she lead the King astray? I know Abraham told her to do it, but she didn’t strike me as the type of woman who would just follow what her husband said. They must have had an incredibly strong marriage to survive that!