Monday, April 19, 2010

To Live and Die Like Abraham

I've had the privilege of teaching the book of Genesis with my husband these past several months, starting back in September. One of the most poignant moments of this journey we've been on occurred during our study of the life of Abraham. It has never been lost on me that the picture of Abraham's obedience to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to God, and God's faithfulness to stay Abraham's hand so that Jehovah-jireh Himself could provide the lamb to be slain, is a beautiful foreshadowing of Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world. However, little did we know that based on the starting date for the study, the holidays and observances that pre-empted class, and the natural rhythym of the lessons, we would study this lesson in depth during Holy week! Easter will never be the same to me ...

As we wrap up this portion of our study in Genesis, I am struck by what the Scriptures say about how Abraham lived his life. Hebrews 11 shares with us the depth of Abraham's faith. Throughout the New Testament we see that he was justified by his faith, just as we are today. We see in hindsight that God fulfilled His covenant to Abraham, through His son Jesus Christ, but Abraham did not live to see the fulness of the covenant, and yet he was called Abraham, the believer, a friend of God. I would love it if at the end of my life, it could be said of me - Tina, the believer, a friend of God.

Then I read what Genesis 25:8 says about Father Abraham. "Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life." Oh to die like Abraham! I'm really digging the 'ripe old age' part ... at 45, I am well on my way to that! Okay so Abraham lived to be 175, but I do have a great-grandma that lived to be 104. She was a godly woman whose favorite song was 'The Old Rugged Cross.' I have a legacy that gives me a good start.

It's the 'satisfied with life' part that I can't seem to wrap my head around. I struggle with this daily. I always think, "If only I could spend all day in my Bible without the disruptions of cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry." I would love it if I could just go through my days basking in the Word of God, spending time with other believers and friends of God who, in the words of my particular friend, satisfy the soul. And call me crazy but I really don't mind when the Spirit moves and church goes a lot longer than an hour!

But the pace of our culture these days does not permit such luxurious pursuit of God. I often think that our's is the only day and age in which we have allowed ourselves to be so distracted by the busyness of life. Then I was re-reading A.W. Tozer's epic classic on the very topic The Pursuit of God - The Human Thirst for the Divine and realized that, as the author of Ecclesiastes so eloquently put it: "There is nothing new under the sun."

Tozer writes: Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.

Did you know that Tozer wrote these haunting words in a day where life really was much simpler than ours? No cell phones, no computers, no Costco, no Day-timers, PDA's, iPods, or 24/7 grocery stores. He wrote this in 1948, before most of the United States had established commercially licensed television stations!

The sad truth of Tozer's assertion is that people seek to fulfill the longing of their hearts with religion, when relationship best meets the need. How much more true today? Scripture tells us that "he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty" (Proverbs 28:19) and that "the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away." (James 1:11) This is why the apostle Paul exhorts the people of the church at Colossae to set their minds on 'the things above.' He warns that an earthly mindset amounts to idolatry. Certainly many of the activities, possessions and people we choose to pursue can be false idols in our lives.

Abraham certainly had his share of vain pursuits. He sojourned in Egypt when God wanted him in Canaan. He listened to Sarah when she suggested that he go in to Hagar and 'help' God along in His provision of the promised son. And twice he tried to save his own skin by passing his wife off as his sister, which resulted in some tense moments with the kings who tried to take her as their own! But in the end, it is said that Abraham "did not waver in His unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was also able to perform."

Do you believe that God is able to perform what He has promised? It isn't easy working out our salvation on this earth. We face daily temptation to pursue material wealth and luxurious lifestyles. We are told that we need certain products and possessions to be truly satsified and that we deserve to pursue acquiring them. But today, even as in 1948, possessions and a wealthy lifestyle do not satisfy the longing of our hearts, because only God can fulfill the deepest desire of our hearts, to love and to be loved, without fear of losing the object of our love.

The psalmist described his thirst for God in a season of feeling parched. "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (42:1-2) Do you thirst for God? Then pursue Him! Jesus promised that those who drink of the water He would give them, "shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (John 4:14)

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Funny, I don't think he knew what Jesus would also preach one day on the Mount of Olives, not far from where Abraham laid Isaac on an altar and stretched out his hand to slay his son. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied."

Oh to live and to die like Abraham!

Blessings, Tina

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