Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Contradiction??? - November 1st, 2008

Rom.4:18-22 states that Abraham, “against all hope, in hope believed…without weakening in his faith…he did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in faith and gave glory to God being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” Unless I’m reading a different account that isn’t at all how Abraham responded to God. In Gen.12:1-3, 7 and 13:14-17 God promises Abraham that he would be the father of a nation of descendants as numerous as the particles of dust on the earth, yet Abraham at that time was 75 years old and Sarah was baren. Finally in Gen.15:2-3 Abraham lashes out at God in disbelief. God, mercifully, restates the promise in verses 4 through 5 and verse 6 tells us that at that point, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” God then continues reminding Abraham of the promise throughout the rest of the chapter. Eleven years after the original promise, Abraham so distrusts God’s word, that he takes matters into his own hands attempting to fulfill God’s promise by committing adultery with Sarah’s servant Hagar, fathering Ishmael, in Genesis 16. God, showing his mercy and kindness to Abraham in spite of his sin, 13 years after the birth of Ishmael, affirms his promise of a son through his wife Sarah, in 17:1 through 16 and Abraham, yet again doubts God even going to the extent of laughing at Him in disbelief in 17:17. God, as he always does, declares His promise again in verses 19 through 21, and still even again in 18:10 and 14. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah shortly thereafter (Gen.21), when he was about 100 years old and God fulfilled His promise to Abraham but it is obvious that the account in Genesis falls far short of the description of Abraham’s faith told in Romans 4. For a couple weeks back in the summer of 2002 that puzzled me, until I remembered the context of this passage, Rom.4:17, which described God (who inspired every word of Rom.4:18-22) as “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” That puts it all in perspective. Because Abraham put his faith in God (Gen.15:6) God saw him as righteous (Rom.4:22) and that meant that even those times of unbelief and doubt were covered by God’s grace as God chose to see only his faith and it is for that reason that when God recounts the story from His perspective, through Paul, in Romans 4, He chooses to define Himself first as the God who calls things that are not as though they were and then continues to describe Abraham as righteous, believing and faithful, not because of his record but because he put his faith in God. God looked directly at Abraham’s unbelief and called him believing. God did the same with King David, who committed adultery and murder (2 Sam.11) but God called him a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). God did the same thing with Peter who contradicted Christ in Mk8:31-33, was idolatrous during the transfiguration in Lk.9:33, and despite vowing to lay down his life for Christ in Jn.13:37, denied Him 3 times in Jn.18:15-27; Peter was likely the most fickle of all the disciples yet God called him a rock (Mt.16:18). Bottom line, when you are faithless, He remains faithful (2 Tim.2:13). God looks at your weaknesses and chooses to see the opposite just like He did with Abraham, David and Peter; He calls those things which are not yet true about you as though they were and He then develops those things in you (2 Cor.3:18). We say that God sees us through His Son, as perfect and Holy because of His sacrifice, and rightly so (Heb.10:14), but we often fail to truly grasp the reality of that on a daily basis. I love this passage in Romans 4 because it beautifully articulates this encouraging truth.

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