søndag 30. mars 2014

Genesis 19 You suck! But God loves you anyway.

Genesis 19

One day Debby’s going to write a book. This book will be a psychology book, her area of expertise. This book will be an answer to the lies of the “self-help” books. It will be called: “You suck!”.
The subtitle will be “But God loves you anyway”.

That could be the title of these chapters! We’ve reached the final chapter of this little trilogy which started in chapter 17. This story has been a great illustration of sin, judgement, repentance, salvation – and clearly illustrating who gets saved and why. So let’s do the “Previously… in Genesis” and remember what happened back in chapter 17, before we go on to the thrilling finale in chapter 19!

1. Abraham, you suck! But God loves you anyway.

At the end of chapter 16 Abraham and Sarah were failures. They had tried to help God out, messed up their family life, and abused Hagar. They were failures. They probably felt like failures too. “We’ve screwed up. We’ve failed God. We’ll have to settle for second best.” You know, the kind of thinking that we have that God’s plans are dependent on us, and that he had this great plan for our lives but we sinned and ruined it and so now we’ve only got plan b (or c, d, e, z) and we’ll just have to put up with that.

And then God appears to Abraham. Wow! Abraham, you’re still part of the plan. I’m going to bless the world through you - look at 17:7 “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Wow! This is no plan B – this is plan A! But Abraham still can’t quite believe it. Gen 17:18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael (Hagar’s son) live under your special blessing!”

How often are we like that? It seems humble, doesn’t it? “No, I’m okay with this life, this level of blessing, I screwed up. I deserve it.”

But it’s not humble. It is disbelieving God’s word. We refuse to believe we are forgiven. We refuse to believe that we are called to live life as God’s children.

So often we turn away from God and accept second best. How many Christians in Norway are living that “second best” life? Just going through the motions, trying to be nice and decent, but never approaching God, never throwing themselves fully into adoring Christ, never risking anything – because they only can see their sin and failure and not the passionate burning love and forgiveness of the Father.

In other words, like Lot. Lot is what many of us have been, what some of us are, and what many sitting in churches across this country are.

2. Lot ran away from God

Lot’s downfall started back in chapter 13. 10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the LORD or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram.

Lot turned aside from Abraham and took the “easy” path, the path which required nothing of him. But where do we find him in chapter 19. Not outside the city, with his huge flocks and servants and tents like Abraham. No. Something has gone wrong, and Lot who moved near Sodom because of the land – the easy life – is now in the city, the city of wicked people who constantly sinned against the Lord (13:13). What happened? What happened to Lot and all his wealth? He moved away from the blessing of God in order to protect his wealth, to seek comfort – and he has neither. Gone. Foolish Lot.

And now he’s in Sodom on the eve of its destruction…

19:1 That evening the two angels came to the entrance of the city of Sodom. Lot was sitting there, and when he saw them, he stood up to meet them. Then he welcomed them and bowed with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.”

The first thing we notice in Lot’s story is that he welcomes the angels, just like Abraham. He quickly prepares a feast for them, just like Abraham. But there’s a difference: Abraham recognises God. Lot doesn’t. “My Lord” says Abraham to the three men. He sees God. “My lords” says Lot to the two men – recognising their authority, but nothing more.

But that’s not really surprising, since it seems that God met with Abraham in a special way. It could have physically been the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. Jesus has a human body, a resurrected human body, raised imperishable. And since he is outside of time - he could appear as a human in the Old Testament. Let the theologians debate!
What we do know for certain is that God revealing himself points forward to the incarnation – God becoming man – as the supreme revelation of God to humanity. To stand face-to-face with God!

That’s the kind of relationship Abraham had with God.

Lot had that relationship – but he threw it away. He abandoned the blessings of the covenant for… well, for what? Nothing.

Think about this story. Lot didn’t recognise God when he comes to visit. He didn’t obey the word of God when it came – the angels had to drag him out of the city in v16. His moral thinking was totally warped: he offers his own daughters to the men of the city in v8! Who does that? Hospitality is one thing, risking your own life, even, is to be commended – but his daughters? “Here, why don’t you rape them instead?” Lot had been seriously influenced by Sodom. And his daughters had too, as we see at the end of the chapter. Lot’s life is a mess.

What’s interesting is that the author of Genesis doesn’t stop to moralise over the failings of the people he’s writing about. He doesn’t stop and say “now children, what can we learn from this?”. He simply tells the story. And we see how these choices play themselves out.

We see how separating from the covenant blessing and choosing the so-called “easy” life leads to chaos and confusion. We see how adultery brings hatred, abuse, and family strife. We see how lying and disobedience towards God brings problems for you and those around you. We see how destructive sin is.

Lot ran away from God. Instead of sticking with Abraham and the blessing of the covenant, he chose Sodom.

But how often do we do the same? We know, deeply, intimately know the Creator of the universe. And yet we turn our backs on him and run after sin. And what better place to learn about sin than Sodom.

3. Sinful Sodom

13:13 The people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the LORD. And in 18:20 the Lord says “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant”

Why Lot? Why would you live in a town like this? Why didn’t you just go back to Abraham and say “I was wrong, I’m sorry”. Pride?

Because Sodom was awful. 19:4 But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. 5 They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”
Did you notice the men of the town so enslaved to their own sinful desires? Their sin is shocking. And it’s not the homosexuality that’s shocking – people sin sexually all the time; and personally I’m more shocked by the sexual sins of Lot’s daughter’s at the end of the chapter.
What’s shocking is how they totally disregarded even social norms. In the Ancient Middle East hospitality was the thing. No-one, and I mean no-one, treated guests badly. We can see that in Lot’s reaction “have my daughters”. It’s an evil statement, but protecting his guests, maintaining his hospitality, was so important he’d even risk his daughters! But all the men of Sodom? They were so consumed by sin that they would even attack visitors to rape them.

Even after they are struck blind, in v11, they “wear themselves out looking for the door” says a more literal translation. They didn’t just give up (like the NLT says) but wore themselves out trying to sin. So determined were they.
Who does that? Who so desperately wants to rape visitors that even when they are BLIND they keep trying to find the way in?

Only people consumed by sin. Ah, sin promises so much, but like an addictive drug once we take its hand its barbs dig in to us and we cannot let go, cannot free ourselves – and it drags us down, deeper and deeper.

I remember watching one of my bosses at work gradually have an affair. He didn’t start out to have an affair. He loved his wife and his two boys. It started so innocently, just a bit of flirting while on a smoke break. Completely innocent. Completely harmless. And then the smoke breaks became longer. And then they just began to have smoke breaks on their own. And then the odd lunch together. And before long they had slept together, their affair was discovered, and two families were ripped apart. That’s how sin works. It looks oh so wonderful, but then it digs into us and we are powerless to stop it. It’s like a rotten apple, that looks beautiful, delicious, on the outside – but you bite into it and it’s disgustingly rotten.

I remember a friend of mine at university who cheated on his girlfriend while she was away. “I couldn’t stop myself” he said. He was devastated.

In my own life, all too often I play with sin, just a little bit, it won’t matter. It always ends up with: Oh God, forgive me, I am a sinner!

Where are we playing with sin? Giving in, just a little. Don’t. Because it will take it all, and it will consume you, like it did the men of Sodom. Turn back to Christ. Fill your mind with his glory, his beauty, his love, his forgiveness. There’s an old song which says that all things of the earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace – and that’s what we want. Capture our vision Lord, fill us with your beauty, so that the sin that seems so attractive just fades away into greyness.

Abraham, for all his faults, was consumed by God. He loved God with everything, and nothing, not even the miracle son Isaac, came between him and God. Everything.
Abraham is the normal Christian. That’s us. That’s who we are. God is our everything. All that I am, is his. Praise God.

Lot, on the other hand, is the type of Christian who tries to keep God at arm’s length. God, you can have this much, but not this. God, Sunday’s are yours, but the rest is mine. God, I have issues with you. God, I think you’re wrong in this area. God…

God made us for himself. We are designed to be in relationship with him. We are designed to be perfect and he is the one who can make us perfect. It doesn’t work any other way. It’s like trying to run your car on Coca-cola. You won’t get very far, you’ll make a big mess, and you’ll wreck your engine!

So, what do we do?

4. The solution

Well, what did Lot do? You know, if you stopped at verse 16: the angels have grabbed Lot and his family, fire starts to rain down – but they are safe. Oh – what would the next scene be? The triumphant joyful reuiniting with Abraham, surely? Hugs and kisses all round. Probably a sacrifice or two to the Lord Almighty, songs of praise, and great thanksgiving.

But no. Even after Lot is rescued he is still afraid, he is still ashamed. Lot never returns for forgiveness but instead exiles himself to a cave – and horrible things happen as a result.

Lot’s self-imposed exile is sin. I can think of no other reason except that he’s trying to pay for his own sin. Cover his own shame. All he has to do is walk up the hill to Abraham. But he doesn’t.

Martin Luther, the Reformer, used to whip himself often as a young monk. He hated himself, hated his sin, hated God and his ridiculous demands of perfection. And so he beat himself, whipped himself, trying to somehow satisfy the wrath of Almighty God.

Is that you? Do you keep yourself away from God? Do you try to punish yourself, whipping yourself with words of abuse or disgust? There is a huge difference between knowing our deep-rooted sinfulness and rebellion, and then rejoicing in the great forgiveness of our Heavenly Father; and wallowing in disgust of ourselves and punishing ourselves for our failures. The first is the work of the Spirit as he shines his light on our darkness, exposes our sin, and convicts us to call on the name of Jesus. Our sin drives us to the Cross.
The second is from the pit of Hell, as Satan condemns us and tells us we do not deserve to come to God, and so we stay away.

Of course we don’t deserve to come to God! Whoever said we did?! That’s grace. Free grace.

Lot did not deserve salvation. Yet he was saved. Why? Because Abraham was praying for him.

Abraham did not deserve salvation. Yet he was saved. Why? Because God loved him.

If you read this narrative in little bits then you can think that Lot is a righteous man. But if you read the story as a whole, chapter 12 to 25, and really dig in – it’s pretty clear that Lot was a wayward fool, a rebellious sinner who was rescued time and again only because of Abraham’s love for him. Abraham blessed Lot, and so Lot was blessed.

It’s a great picture of us and Christ. We are Lot, wayward, throwing our lot in with sinners, getting confused about right and wrong, not recognising the Lord, not running from sin – and in the throne room of Heaven, the Son talks to the Father and pleads for us in our defence. He is our mediator, our Great High Priest who says “my sacrifice is sufficient to cover their sins”.

Now we don’t know what happens to Lot. This is the last we hear of him – a lonely drunkard, raped by his own daughters. Is he in Heaven?
You know, he probably is, since the whole thrust of this story has been that the only reason he’s been shown mercy is because he has an advocate – someone representing him before the throne of Heaven.

But what about you? Are you trying to get to Heaven by yourself? Or do you have an advocate, a representative, at the throne of Heaven? Do you know Christ Jesus, and does he know you?

And if you do know him, is he your all in all? Is he your all-consuming passion? Does he fill your vision in your marriage, watching movies, reading books, with your friends, at work, on the net, at school, with your kids? Is he your glory? Or are you like Lot, hiding in a cave, trying to keep God out?

You’re forgiven. You are accepted. Your sins are paid for. You are part of the covenant. You suck, but God loves you. Believe it.

19:29 But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe.

1. Mosebok 19 Du duger ikke! Men Gud elsker deg uansett.

1. Mosebok 19

En dag kommer Debby til å skrive en bok. Denne boka vil være en psykologibok, som er hennes ekspertisområde. Og den vil være et svar på all løgn som "selv-hjelp" bøker gir. Det vil bli kalt: "Du duger ikke!". Undertittelen vil være "Men Gud elsker deg uansett".

Dette kan være tittelen på disse kapitlene! Vi har nådd det siste kapitlet i denne lille trilogien som startet i kapittel 17. Denne historien er en flott illustrasjon på synd, dom, omvendelse, frelse - og illustrerer tydelig hvem som blir frelst og hvorfor. Så la oss gjøre et "Tidligere ... i 1.Mosebok" og minnes hva som skjedde i kapittel 17, før vi går videre til den spennende finalen i kapittel 19!

1. Abraham, du duger ikke! Men Gud elsker deg uansett.

På slutten av kapittel 16 ser vi Abraham og Sara svikte totalt. De hadde prøvd å hjelpe Gud, rotet familielivet, og misbrukt Hagar. De sviktet. De følte seg sannsynligvis som, og. "Vi har feila. Vi har sviktet Gud. Vi må ta til takke med det nest beste." Dere kjenner kanskje igjen den type tenkning som vi har at Guds planer er avhengige av oss, og at han hadde denne store planen for våre liv, men vi syndet og ødela den, og nå fikk vi bare plan b (eller c, d, e, å), og vi må bare ta til takke med det.

Men så åpenbarer Gud seg for Abraham. Oi! ”Abraham, du er fortsatt en del av planen. Jeg kommer til å velsigne verden gjennom deg” - se på 17:7 "Jeg skal opprette min pakt mellom meg og deg og din ætt etter deg i alle de slektsledd som kommer. Den skal være en evig pakt, og jeg skal være Gud for deg og din ætt etter deg.

At de går an! Dette er ingen plan B - dette er plan A! Men Abraham kan ikke helt tro det fortsatt. 1.Mos 17:18 Abraham sa til Gud: «Må bare Ismael (Hagar sønn) leve for Ditt ansikt (vær velsignet)!"
Plan A? Nei du mener vel Ismael, Plan B?
Hvor ofte gjør vi ikke det samme? Det virker ydmykt, ikke sant? "Nei, jeg er OK med dette livet, dette nivået av velsignelse. Jeg ta det på min egen kappe - jeg rotet det til. Jeg fortjener det."

Men dette er ikke ydmykhet. Det er vantro. Vi nekter å tro Gud ord. Vi nekter å tro at vi er tilgitt. Vi nekter å tro at vi er kalt til å leve livet som Guds barn.

Derfor vender vi oss ofte bort fra Gud og aksepterer det nest beste. Hvor mange kristne i Norge lever dette "nest beste" livet? Bare går gjennom ritualene, prøver å være hyggelig og greie, men kommer aldri nær Gud, kaster seg aldri helt inn i tilbedelse til Kristus, risikerer aldri noe - fordi de bare kan se sin egen synd og svikt og ikke den lidenskapelige, brennende kjærlighet og tilgivelse av Gud, vår Far.

Med andre ord, akkurat som Lot. Lot er slik mange av oss har vært, slik noen av oss er, og slik mange er i dag som sitter i kirkebenker over hele dette landet.

2. Lot rømte vekk fra Gud

Lots frafall startet i kapittel 13.10: Lot løftet blikket og så hele Jordansletten, og han så at det var godt med vann der. Dette var før Herren ødela Sodoma og Gomorra. Da var det som Herrens hage, som landet Egypt, helt bort til Soar. Lot valgte hele Joransletten for seg selv, og Lot dro østover. Så skiltes de (Abraham og Lot) fra hverandre.

Lot skilte lag med Abraham og tok den ”lette" veien, veien som ikke krevde noe av ham. Men hvor finner vi ham i kapittel 19? Ikke utenfor byen, med sine enorme flokker og tjenere og telt som Abraham. Nei, noe har gått galt, og Lot som flyttet nær Sodoma på grunn av det fruktbare landet - det ”lette” livet - bor nå i byen, byen full av onde mennesker som stadig syndet mot Herren (13:13). Hva har skjedd? Hva skjedde med Lot og all hans rikdom? Han dro bort fra Guds velsignelse for å beskytte sin rikdom, for å søke etter komfort - og endte ikke opp med noen av delene. Forduftet, gått tapt. For en tosk Lot var.
Og nå finner vi han i Sodoma kvelden før byens ødeleggelse...

19:1 De to englene kom nå til Sodoma om kvelden, mens Lot satt i Sodomas port. Da Lot så dem, reiste han seg for å gå dem i møte, og han bøyde seg ned med ansiktet mot jorden. 2 Han sa: ”Hør her, mine herrer, jeg ber dere å ta inn i deres tjeners hus for å overnatte der og vaske føttene deres. Så kan dere stå tidlig opp og dra videre på reisen”

Det første vi legger merke til i Lots historie er at han tar imot englene, akkurat som Abraham. Han forbereder raskt et måltid for dem, akkurat som Abraham. Men det er en forskjell: Abraham gjenkjenner Gud. Lot gjør det ikke. "Min Herre", sier Abraham til de tre mennene. Han ser Gud. ”Mine herrer", sier Lot til de to mennene - han anerkjenner deres autoritet, men ikke noe mer.

Men det er egentlig ikke overraskende, siden det ser ut til at Gud møtte Abraham på en spesiell måte. Det kunne fysisk ha vært Guds Sønn, den andre Personen i Treenigheten. Jesus har en menneskekropp, en oppstanden kropp, som er stått opp uforgjengelig. Og siden han er utenfor tid - kunne han fremstå som et menneske i Det gamle testamente. La teologene diskutere!
Det vi vet helt sikkert er at Gud åpenbarer seg selv, og dette peker frem mot inkarnasjonen – det at Gud blir menneske – som den høyeste åpenbaring av Gud til menneskeheten. Å stå ansikt til ansikt med Gud!

Det er et slikt forhold Abraham hadde med Gud.

Lot hadde det forholdet - men han kastet det bort. Han forlot velsignelsens pakt for ... ingenting.

Tenk litt på denne historien. Lot gjenkjenner ikke Gud når han kommer på besøk. Han var ikke lydig mot Guds ord da det kom - englene måtte dra ham ut av byen i v16. Hans moralske tenkning ble helt forvridd: han tilbyr sine egne døtre til mennene i byen i v8! Hvem gjør slikt? Gjestfrihet er en ting, å risikere sitt eget liv må roses - men hans døtre? ”Se her, hvorfor ikke voldta dem i stedet?” Lot hadde blitt alvorlig påvirket av Sodoma. Og det hadde døtrene hans også, som vi ser på slutten av kapitlet. Lots liv er et ordentlig rot.

Det interessante er at forfatteren av 1.Mosebok stopper ikke opp for å moralisere over svakhetene til de menneskene han skriver om. Han stopper ikke opp og sier "Nå kjære barn, hva kan vi lære av dette?“ Han bare forteller historien. Og vi ser hvilke konsekvenser disse valgene får.

Vi ser at å skille seg fra paktens velsignelse og velge det såkalte “lette” liv fører til kaos og forvirring. Vi ser hvordan utroskap bringer hat, overgrep, og familiestrid. Vi ser hvordan løgn og ulydighet mot Gud fører til problemer for deg selv og de ​​rundt deg. Vi ser hvor ødeleggende synd er.

Lot løp vekk fra Gud. I stedet for å bli med Abraham og velsignelsespakten, valgte han Sodoma.

Men hvor ofte gjør ikke vi det samme? Selv om vi kjenner Gud, universets Skaper, dypt og intimt snur vi ham ryggen og løper etter synd. Og hvilket bedre sted å lære om synd enn Sodoma?

3. Syndige Sodoma

13:13 ”Men mennene i Sodoma var meget onde og syndet grovt mot Herren.”
Og i 18:20 Herren sa:”Fordi Sodomas og Gomorras klagerop er kraftig, og fordi deres synd er meget stor,”…

Lot, hvorfor? Hvorfor ville du bo i en by som dette? Hvorfor dro du ikke bare tilbake til Abraham og sa "jeg tok feil, jeg beklager". Hovmod?

For Sodoma var et forferdelig sted. 19:4 Før de hadde lagt seg, kom mennene fra byen, Sodomas menn, både gamle og unge, hele folket fra alle kanter av byen, og de omringet huset.5 De ropte til Lot og sa til ham: ”Hvor er mennene som kom til deg i kveld? Ta dem med ut til oss så vi kan få kjenne dem (pent språk for: ha sex med dem).”

La dere merke til hvordan disse mennene i byen var slaver av sine egne syndige lyster? Synden deres er sjokkerende. Og det er ikke det at homofili er spesielt sjokkerende - folk synder seksuelt hele tiden, og personlig er jeg mer sjokkert over de seksuelle syndene Lots døtre begår på slutten av kapitlet.
Det som er sjokkerende er hvordan de trosser sosiale normer. I oldtidens Midtøsten var gjestfrihet tingen. Ingen, og jeg mener ingen, behandlet gjester dårlig. Vi kan se det i Lots reaksjon "ta døtrene mine". Det er en ond uttalelse, men det å beskytte sine gjester, opprettholde sin gjestfrihet, var så viktig at han faktisk ville risikere døtrene sine! Men alle mennene i Sodoma? De var så opptatt av synd at de til og med ville angripe besøkende og voldta dem.

Selv etter at de ble slått i blinde, i v11, “de ble trette av all famlingen etter å finne døren.” Så bestemt var de.
Hvem gjør slikt? Hvem er så desperate etter å voldta besøkende at selv når de er BLINDE fortsetter de å prøve å finne veien inn?

Bare personer som er fullstendig oppslukt av synd. Å ja, synd lover så mye, men den er som et vanedannende narkotikastoff som graver seg inn og blir som lenker som ikke vil gi slipp, og vi kan ikke frigjøre oss. Den drar oss ned, dypere og dypere.

Jeg husker en gang jeg så hvordan en av sjefene mine gradvis ble involvert i en affære. Han hadde ingen hensikt med å bli involvert. Han elsket sin kone og sine to gutter. Det begynte så uskyldig, bare litt flørting mens de var på en røykepause. Helt uskyldig. Helt ufarlig. Og så ble røykepausene lengre. Og så begynte de å ha røykepauser bare på egenhånd. Og så en og annen lunsj sammen. Og ikke lenge etter begynte de å ligge sammen, affæren ble oppdaget, og to familier ble revet i stykker. Det er slik synd fungerer. Det ser å-så-fantastisk ut, men den graver seg inn i oss og vi er maktesløse til å stoppe den. Eller som et råttent eple, som ser nydelig ut på utsiden, men når man biter i det, så er det pillråttent.

Jeg husker en venn av meg på universitetet som var utro mot kjæresten sin mens hun var borte. "Jeg kunne ikke stoppe meg selv" sa han. Han var helt knust.

I mitt eget liv, leker jeg alt for ofte med synd, bare litt, det gjør ingen ting… Og det ender alltid opp med ”Å Gud, tilgi meg. Jeg er en synder!”

Hvor leker vi med synd? Å gi etter, bare litt. Ikke gjør det. Fordi det vil ta over, og det vil sluke deg opp deg, som det gjorde med mennene i Sodoma. Vend tilbake til Kristus. Fyll sinnet ditt med hans herlighet, hans skjønnhet, hans kjærlighet, hans tilgivelse. Det er en gammel sang som sier at ”alle ting på jorden blir svakt i lys av hans herlighet og nåde” - og det er det vi ønsker. Fang opp vår syn, Herre, fyll oss med din skjønnhet, slik at synden som virker så attraktiv bare forsvinner bort i grådisen.

Abraham, tross alle sine feil, var oppslukt av Gud. Han elsket Gud med hele seg. Ikke engang mirakelsønnen Isak, kom mellom ham og Gud. Alt.
Abraham er den normale kristen. Det er oss. Det er hvem vi er. Gud er vårt alt. Alt som jeg er, er hans. Pris Gud.

Lot, derimot, er den type kristen som prøver å holde Gud på en armlengdes avstand. Gud, du kan ha så mye, men ikke dette. Gud, søndagen er din, men resten er mitt. Gud, jeg har problemer med deg. Gud, jeg tror du tar feil på dette området. Gud ...

Gud skapte oss for seg selv. Vi er designet for å være i et forhold til ham. Vi er designet for å være perfekte, og han er den eneste som kan gjøre oss perfekte. Det fungerer ikke på noen annen måte. Det er som å prøve å kjøre bilen på brus. Du vil ikke komme veldig langt, du vil rote det skikkelig til, og du vil ødelegge motoren din!

Så, hva gjør vi?

4. Løsningen

Vel, hva gjorde Lot? Skal vi se…hvis vi stopper ved vers 16 ser vi at englene har grepet tak i Lot og familien, at brann og svovel begynner å regne ned - men de er trygge. Men så - hva burde den neste scenen være? Den triumferende, gledelige gjenforeningen med Abraham, ikke sant? Klemmer og kysser og stor glede. Sannsynligvis et offer eller to til Herren, Allhærs Gud, lovsang, og stor takk.

Men nei. Selv etter at Lot blir reddet er han fortsatt vettskremt, fortsatt skamfull. Lot drar aldri tilbake for å gjøre opp, men i stedet drar han i eksil til en hule - og grusomme ting skjer som et resultat.

Lots selvpålagte eksil er synd. Jeg kan ikke tenke meg noen annen grunn enn at han prøver å betale for sin egen synd. Dekke sin egen skam. Alt han har å gjøre er å gå opp bakken til Abraham. Men det gjør han ikke.

Martin Luther, reformasjonens far, pleide ofte å piske seg selv som en ung munk. Han hatet seg selv, hatet sin synd, hatet Gud og hans uoverkommelige krav til perfeksjon. Og så gav han seg​​ selv ris, pisket seg selv, prøvde liksom å tilfredsstille den allmektige Guds vrede på sin egen kropp.

Er det deg? Holder du deg borte fra Gud? Forsøker du å straffe deg selv, piske deg selv med skjellsord eller avsky?
Det er en stor forskjell mellom det å kjenne vår iboende syndighet og opprør, for så å fryde oss i vår himmelske Fars store tilgivelse; og det å vasse i avsky over oss selv og straffe oss selv for våre feil. Det første er et verk av at den Hellige Ånd skinner sitt lys på vårt mørke, avslører vår synd, og overbeviser oss til å kalle på Jesu navn. Vår synd driver oss til korset.
Det andre kommer rett fra helvete, der Satan fordømmer oss og forteller oss at vi ikke fortjener å komme til Gud, og så holder vi oss borte.

Hallo! Selvfølgelig fortjener vi ikke å komme til Gud! Hvem i all verden sa det?! Det er nåde. Gratis nåde.

Lot fortjente ikke redningen. Likevel ble han reddet. Hvorfor? Fordi Abraham ba for ham.

Abraham fortjente ikke frelse. Likevel ble han frelst. Hvorfor? Fordi Gud elsket ham.

Hvis du leser denne fortellingen i små biter så kan du nok tro at Lot er en rettferdig mann. Men hvis du leser historien i sin helhet, kapittel 12 til 25, og virkelig fordyper deg inn i den – er det ganske klart at Lot var en egensindig tosk, en opprørsk synder som ble reddet gang på gang bare på grunn av Abrahams kjærlighet til ham. Abraham velsignet Lot, og så var Lot velsignet.

Dette er et flott bilde av oss og Kristus. Vi er som Lot, villfarne, knyttet sammen med syndere, forvirret over rett og galt, erkjenner ikke Herren, flykter ikke fra synd - og i Himmelens tronerom, snakker sønnen til Faderen og ber for oss i vårt forsvar. Han er vår mellommann, vår store øversteprest som sier "mitt offer er tilstrekkelig til å dekke over sine synder".

Nå vet vi ikke hva som er Lots skjebne. Dette er det siste vi hører om ham - en ensom alkoholiker voldtatt av sine egne døtre. Er han i himmelen?
Hvem vet? Men sannsynligvis er han det, siden hele drivet i denne historien har vært at den eneste grunnen til at han har blitt vist barmhjertighet er fordi han har en advokat - en som representerer ham foran tronen i himmelen.

Men hva med deg? Prøver du å komme til himmelen ved deg selv? Eller har du en advokat, en representant, ved tronen i himmelen? Kjenner du Jesus Kristus, og kjenner han deg?

Og hvis du kjenner ham, er han ditt alt? Er han din altoppslukende lidenskap? Fyller han deg, er han ditt ”syn” – i ekteskapet, når du ser filmer, leser bøker, er med venner, på jobben, på nettet, på skolen, med barna dine? Er han din herlighet? Eller er du som Lot, gjemmer deg i en hule, og prøver å holde Gud unna?

Du er tilgitt. Du er akseptert. Dine synder er betalt for. Du er en del av pakten. Du duger ikke - men Gud elsker deg uansett. Tro det.

19:29 Gud husket på Abraham. Han førte Lot ut fra ødeleggelsen.

søndag 23. mars 2014

Genesis 18 Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?

Genesis 18

What will God do with wicked people? What will God do with the righteous – those who follow him? What is our destiny?
And why? Why are the wicked judged? Why are the righteous saved? Why does Abraham know the Lord? Why is Sarah part of God’s plan to bless the world? Why are they the righteous and are blessed?

That’s what these chapters are about. This chapter (18) finishes off 17 and introduces the events of 19. Chapter 17, 18 and 19 are very closely linked: they’re all to do with the righteous and the wicked and the destinies of each (that is: what happens to the righteous, what happens to the wicked).

Sarah’s story in vv1-15 re-emphasises God’s promises that he made in chapter 17, promising to be with Abraham and his descendants. Abraham will be the father of a multitude, and they will be God’s people and he will be their God. They will be part of the covenant, protected by God, blessed by God. The alternative is to be outside of the covenant, cut off from God – and as we see in chapter 19, to be out of the covenant protection is to face God’s wrath against sin totally without protection. Sodom and Gomorrah were two terrible cities who faced the right anger of God, and they were defenceless before him, without excuse. You’re either protected by the covenant, or exposed and naked and defenceless.

So we’ll start with Sarah’s story:
1. Is anything too hard for the Lord;
then move on to look at the covenant of grace:
2. Covered by the covenant
and finish by seeing
3. Christ our intercessor

1. Is anything too hard for the LORD? (Sarah’s story)

13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Poor old Sarah. All her life she had been barren. All her life she would have heard women whispering, talking about her behind her back, looking down on her. All her life she would have felt an unworthy wife to Abraham because she couldn’t provide him with a child. You can imagine how she felt. How the women around her would have subtly or not so subtly made her feel like second class, unworthy, an embarrassment to her husband. The sidelong glances, the little verbal digs “my first child – oh sorry Sarah, I hope you don’t mind us mentioning children”, the whispers and sneers – the way women can crush the spirit of another woman.
Sarah was crushed by her burden of feeling useless, not a woman, because she could not bear children, could not be a mother.
And God’s promise to Abraham only added to the pressure! No wonder she started to be bitter! 16:2 “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her”.

We can understand her pain and bitterness, her desperate attempt to get rid of her shame through Hagar. Perhaps Hagar could remove her shame. But that only made things worse!

It’s like Lady Macbeth trying to wash the blood from her hands, blood from the murder of the king, “Out, out damned spot” she cried! Her guilt had stained her hands, and she was trying to wash them clean.
Or Pilate trying to wash his guilt away at condemning Jesus, a man he knew was innocent, to a guilty mans death.

Trying to deal with our guilt, our pain, our sin, our own way will only make things worse. Lady Macbeth commits suicide. Pilate never repented, lost control of Judea, and was recalled to Rome to be punished by the Emperor. Sarah ends up abusing her servant, so harshly that she runs away into the desert to die.

Trying to be our own saviour does not work. “Follow your heart” is foolish and destructive advice. We need a Saviour. We need Christ. Only he can remove the shame that we bear. Only he can lift the burdens we carry from the past, only he can lift them, wash us clean, declare us new, righteous, and set us on the path to life and freedom. Only Christ. Is anything too hard for the Lord.

God visits Abraham for Sarah’s sake. V9 “Where is Sarah, your wife?” the visitors asked. “She’s inside the tent,” Abraham replied. 10 Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!” Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent.

She, too, is part of this covenant with God. She is covered by his grace. So he meets her where she’s at. “Where is Sarah, your wife”. “Adam and Eve, where are you”. Do you want to be found. He is the God who seeks out those whom he loves.
Sarah, YOU are part of the covenant. Your guilt and shame is covered. You, Sarah, will have a son!

Amazing! Incredible! So incredible Sarah cannot believe it. 12 She laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”

Abraham laughed in disbelief in 17:17.
Sarah laughs in disbelief in v12.
But their laughter of disbelief will be turned to laughter of joy when Isaac arrives. And if we could read the original Hebrew this was written in, we would know that the name “Isaac” means “he laughs”. And that when Sarah says “I did not laugh” in v15 it is an anagram of her son’s name, Isaac. (Anagram is when you rearrange the letters of a word to make a new word). God is rearranging their laughter, from disbelief to joy.

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

As we’ve gone through these chapters, we’ve seen God’s covenant (promise) to Abraham come under threat many times. Abraham nearly gave away the land. Abraham disobeys. Abraham doubts. Abraham and Sarah try to help God out by using Hagar. And big problem, Sarah can’t have children, and now is too old anyway. At each stage we think “well, that’s it for the covenant”. But “is anything too hard for the Lord”. Lot turns aside and leaves the land for Abraham. Abraham is not killed for lying to Pharaoh but protected by God. He is victorious in battle. God meets him in his doubts and confirms his promise. And Sarah has baby Isaac in chapter 21, a year after the events in this chapter, just as the Lord had said.

Nothing is too hard for the Lord! Is anything too hard for the Lord? No!

But that does raise the question: how? How does God keep doing this? How can God keep his promise when Abraham so often fails to keep his part of the covenant: to obey God and be blameless?

Well, that leads on to my second point:

2. Covered by the covenant

Because when you think about this story, it’s a little odd. Why did God come and visit Abraham again. Why didn’t he just speak to Sarah back in chapter 17? What’s with the second visit, clearly very soon after the first?

The first hint is found in v1. The LORD appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre.
The oaks of Mamre we’ve seen twice before. In chapter 13, when Lot chooses to abandon Abraham, separating himself from the covenant blessings, and move to Sodom, a wicked city. Not surprisingly, soon afterward Lot needs rescuing as he’s caught up in a war and carried off as a hostage (prisoner). Abraham is living at the oaks of Mamre and off he goes, together with Mamre and his allies to rescue Lot. And now the author says again “the oaks of Mamre” and we think “oh boy, Lot’s in trouble again!”.

And we’re right. V16 Then the men got up from their meal and looked out toward Sodom.

Sodom is their destination. That is where the Lord and his angels were going. So why stop and have big meal with Abraham?

17 “Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” the LORD asked.
The Lord came in order to show Abraham his plan. This was the reason for his visit.
Why? 18 “For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. That’s the words of the covenant in 12:2-3 isn’t it. God will show Abraham his plans, reveal who he is, what kind of God he is, because Abraham is part of the covenant.

19 I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.”

Abraham has been singled out in order to do what is right and just. In order to be the Blameless One, the keeper of the covenant. And so the Lord turns to Abraham, the Blameless, and says 20 So the LORD told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant.

Whoa! Wait a minute. Abraham isn’t blameless, is he? Well, what did we learn last week from chapter 17? We learned that only the blameless, only the perfect can be in relationship with God.
We were reminded that Abraham was not blameless (he even laughs in disbelief at God’s words – not exactly the reaction of someone blameless – you can’t imagine Jesus ever laughing in disbelief at his Father’s words!).
Abraham was not blameless, but God declared him blameless, righteous. Not because of what Abraham has done, but because of what Jesus Christ will do on the cross. Abraham marked his body with the sign of outward circumcision, pointing towards Jesus whose body is marked eternally for the circumcision of our hearts. Jesus’ body bears the mark of God’s everlasting covenant to rescue people from all nations, that all nations will be blessed through the son of Abraham, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

Verse 19 “I have singled him out” is actually a bit of a misleading translation. It literally says “I know him”. God called to Abram of the Chaldeans and revealed himself to him. There is an intimacy - a relationship - there. God knew Abraham. Not because of Abraham’s inherent goodness, but despite his evil and sinful heart. God chose him to display his mercy through him.

Abraham is covered by the covenant of grace, his sins are paid for by Christ on the cross – and he is called to respond in belief. Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous.
Trust and obey. That is our portion. Live as if God is God, as if his words are true and life-giving, and rejoice!

Abraham is covered by the covenant. Because of Christ Abraham can be declared righteous, and so in the rest of this chapter play the role of the Christ, the true Blameless One. God now asks Abraham to intercede (mediate, to reconcile) for Sodom.

3. Christ our intercessor

20 So the LORD told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. 21 I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.” 22 The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the LORD remained with Abraham. 23 Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? 24 Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? 25 Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?

How will we understand what Jesus is doing for us? Because we’ve seen it before with God’s men standing before God, pleading for sinners to be shown mercy. That’s what’s happening here.

“Abraham, come here. I am going down to see Sodom.”
God “going down to see” (v21) is a frightening thing. We’ve seen it with Noah, we saw it with the tower of Babel. It’s basically that God is no longer overlooking our sin, but is now looking at it, and will therefore judge accordingly. But there’s one last hope for those in Sodom: Abraham.
“What about the righteous?” Abraham asks. “Will you destroy them too? Spare the city for the sake of the righteous.”

Isn’t that what we beg God for when we pray for our town? Spare Notodden O Lord, for the sake of those who have yet to hear your message and turn to you. Spare us Father, have mercy on us.

Abraham prays, intercedes for the wicked city of Sodom. It’s a direct fulfilment of the promise that “in him all the nations will be blessed” Despite the fact that the king of Sodom treated Abraham with ingratitude after Abraham had rescued them (in ch.14) - yet Abraham still prays for them and is assured that if there are just fifty, forty, thirty, twenty… even just TEN righteous in Sodom, the whole city will be spared: God’s mercy on the few will outweigh his anger with the many.

Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?

Can God save the righteous in the midst of judging the wicked?
“Can God save his people?” is really the question Abraham is asking. Is it worth it? Can we trust God? Will we be saved at the final judgement or will we be swept aside by the wrath of God along with everyone else? It’s a question Abraham was asking. It’s a question the Israelites were asking. It’s a question we are asking. Is it worth it? Can God really save us?

And poor old Abraham doesn’t get an answer at the end of this conversation. 32 the LORD replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.” 33 When the LORD had finished his conversation with Abraham, he went on his way. Conversation’s over, Abraham! And the scene, and chapter, ends with Abraham return[ing] to his tent. Probably chewing his nails, worried about Lot. Will God save him? The next day we read that he rushes out to the hillside overlooking Sodom to see what happens. Can God rescue his people?

The answer is yes. Yes, God can rescue his people. As Lot is delaying leaving Sodom the angels grab his hands and drag him out of the city, for the Lord is merciful (it says in 19:16). And 19:29 ties Lot’s rescue back to this chapter: it was not because of anything Lot did, but because But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe. Lot is saved because God heard Abraham’s prayer for him.

And as we read this chapter, you and I see and understand that we are saved, and will be saved, not because of what we have or haven’t done, but because God the Father hears Jesus’ prayer for us, and has mercy on us.

Is anything too hard for the Lord? No, even sinners can be saved.

Why? Because we are covered by the covenant of grace.

Why? Because Christ is interceding for us.

Let’s celebrate that now as we take communion. We are sinners, saved by his grace. He is right now in the throne room of heaven interceding for us. “My blood covers their sins. My body was broken to bring them life.” Hallelujah!

1.Mos 18 Hele jordens Dommer, skulle ikke Han dømme rettferdig?

1.Mos 18

Hva vil Gud gjøre med onde mennesker? Hva vil Gud gjøre med de rettferdige - de som følger ham? Hva er vår skjebne?
Og hvorfor? Hvorfor blir de onde dømt? Hvorfor er de rettferdige frelst? Hvorfor kjenner Abraham Herren? Hvorfor er Sara en del av Guds plan for å velsigne verden? Hvorfor er de rettferdige - og velsignet?

Det er disse spørsmålene disse kapitlene handler om. Hva skjer med de rettferdige, hva skjer med de onde, de ugudelige.

Saras historie i vv1-15 understreker Guds pakt (løfte) som han gav i kapittel 17, hvor Han lover å være med Abraham og hans etterkommere. Abraham vil bli far til mange folkeslag, og de vil være Guds folk, og han vil være deres Gud. De vil være en del av pakten, beskyttet av Gud, velsignet av Gud. Alternativet er å være utenfor pakten, avskåret fra Gud - og som vi ser i kapittel 19, det å være utenfor den paktbeskyttelsen er å møte Guds vrede mot synden helt uten beskyttelse. Sodoma og Gomorra var to forferdelige byer som møtte Guds vrede med rette, og de ​​var forsvarsløse overfor ham, uten unnskyldning. Du er enten beskyttet av pakten, eller blottet og naken og forsvarsløs.

Så vi starter med Saras historie:
1. Er noe for vanskelig for Herren;
deretter går vi videre for å se på nådens pakt:
2. Dekket av pakten
og avslutt med å se på
3. Kristus, vår forbeder

1. Er noe for vanskelig for Herren? ( Saras historie)

13 Herren sa til Abraham: «Hvorfor lo Sara og sa: Skal jeg virkelig føde barn nå når jeg er gammel? 14 Er noe for vanskelig for Herren? Etter den fastsatte tiden skal Jeg komme tilbake til dere, etter så lang tid det tar for at et nytt menneskeliv skal bli til, og Sara skal da ha en sønn.”

Stakkars Sara. Hele livet var preget av dette: hun kunne ikke få barn. Hele livet ville hun ha hørt kvinner som hvisker, snakker om henne bak ryggen hennes, ser ned på henne. Hele livet ville hun ha følt seg som en uverdig kone for Abraham fordi hun ikke kunne gi ham et barn. Du kan tenke deg hvordan hun følte seg. Hvordan kvinnene rundt henne ville på så mange forskjellige måter fått henne til å føle seg uverdig, en skam for sin mann. Sideblikkene, de små knusende kommentarene ”mitt første barn – å, beklager Sara, jeg håper du ikke har noe imot at vi snakker om barn”. Slik kvinner kan bryte ned psyken til en annen kvinne.

Denne byrden, at hun ikke å kunne få barn, ikke kunne være mor, gjorde at Sara følte seg sønderknust, helt ubrukelig som kvinne.

Og Guds løfte til Abraham bare økte trykket! Ikke rart hun begynte å bli bitter! 16:2 «Se, Herren har hindret meg i å få barn. Jeg ber deg, gå nå inn til min trellkvinne! Kanskje jeg kan få barn ved henne».

Vi kan forstå hennes smerte og bitterhet, hennes desperate forsøk på å bli kvitt sin skam gjennom Hagar. Kanskje Hagar kunne fjerne hennes skam. Men det bare gjorde ting verre!

Det er som når Lady Macbeth prøver å vaske blodet fra hendene sine, blod fra mordet på kongen, ”Out, out damned spot" gråter hun. (Kom deg vekk, din flekk!) Hennes skyld hadde merket hendene hennes, og hun prøvde å vaske dem rene.

Eller når Pilatus prøver å vaske bort sin egen skyld da han fordømte Jesus til en skyldig manns død, en mann han visste var uskyldig.

Å prøve å håndtere vår skyld, vår smerte, vår synd på vår egen måte vil bare gjøre ting verre. Lady Macbeth begikk selvmord. Pilatus angret aldri, mistet kontrollen over Judea, og ble kalt tilbake til Roma for å bli straffet av keiseren. Sara ender opp med å mishandle sin tjener, Hagar, så hardt at hun rømmer inn i ørkenen for å dø.

Å prøve å være vår egen frelser fungerer ikke. ”Følg hjertet ditt” er et tåpelig og ødeleggende råd. Vi trenger nemlig en frelser. Vi trenger Kristus. Bare han kan fjerne skammen vi bærer. Bare han kan løfte byrdene vi bærer fra fortiden, bare han kan løfte dem, vaske oss rene, erklære oss nye, rettferdige, og sette oss på veien til liv og frihet. Bare Kristus. Er noe for vanskelig for Herren?

Gud besøker Abraham for Saras skyld. 9 Så sa de til ham: «Hvor er Sara, din kone?” Han svarte: «Her inne i teltet.”10 Da sa Han: «Jeg skal sannelig komme tilbake til deg etter så lang tid det tar for at et nytt menneskeliv skal bli til, og se, Sara din kone, skal da ha en sønn.” Men Sara lyttet fra teltåpningen bak ham.

Også hun er en del av denne pakten med Gud. Hun er dekket av hans nåde. Så møter han henne hvor hun er.”Hvor er Sara, din kone?” ”Adam og Eva, hvor er du". Ønsker du å bli funnet? Han er den Gud som oppsøker dem han elsker.

Sara, DU er en del av pakten. Din skyld og skam er dekket. Du, Sara, vil ha en sønn!

Fantastisk! Utrolig! Så utrolig at Sara ikke kan tro det. 12 Derfor lo Sara for seg selv og sa: «Skal jeg få en slik lyst etter at jeg er blitt gammel, og når min herre også er blitt gammel?”

Abraham lo i vantro i 17:17.

Sara ler i vantro i v12.

Men deres latter av vantro vil bli forvandlet til latter av glede når Isak kommer. Og hvis vi kunne lese på opprinnelig hebraisk slik dette ble skrevet, ville vi se at navnet Isak betyr ”han ler”. Og at når Sara sier ”Jeg lo ikke” i v15 er det et anagram av hennes sønns navn, Isak. (Anagram er når du omorganiserer bokstavene i et ord for å lage et nytt ord). Gud omorganiserer deres latter, fra vantro til glede.

Er noe for vanskelig for Herren?

Når vi nå har gått gjennom disse kapitlene har vi sett at Guds pakt (løfte) til Abraham trues mange ganger. Abraham ga nesten bort landet. Abraham adlyder ikke. Abraham tviler. Abraham og Sara prøver å hjelpe Gud ved bruk av Hagar. Og det store problemet: Sara kan ikke få barn, og er nå for gammel uansett. På hvert trinn tror vi ”vel, det var det, nå er det ’over og ut’ for pakten”. Men er noe for vanskelig for Herren. Lot svinger til side og overlater landet til Abraham. Abraham blir ikke drept for å lyve for Farao, men ble beskyttet av Gud. Han er seirende i krig. Gud møter ham i hans tvil og bekrefter sitt løfte. Og Sara får baby Isak i kapittel 21, et år etter hendelsene i dette kapitlet, akkurat som Herren hadde sagt.

Ingenting er for vanskelig for Herren! Er noe for vanskelig for Herren? Nei!

Men det reiser spørsmålet: hvordan? Hvordan kan Gud holde på å gjøre dette? Hvordan kan Gud holde sitt løfte selv når Abraham svikter så ofte med å holde sin del av pakten: å adlyde Gud og være ulastelig?

Vel, dette fører meg videre til mitt andre punkt:

2. Dekket av pakten

Fordi når du tenker på denne historien, er det litt rart. Hvorfor kom Gud og besøkte Abraham igjen. Hvorfor snakket han ikke bare med Sara tilbake i kapittel 17? Hva er så spesielt med dette andre besøket, som klart skjedde ganske snart etter det første?

Det første hintet er funnet i v1. Så viste Herren seg for ham ved terebintelunden i Mamre

Terebinter (Eiketrærne) i Mamre har vi sett to ganger før. I kapittel 13, da Lot valgte å forlate Abraham, og dermed skiller seg fra velsignelsene, og flytter til Sodoma, en ond by. Ikke overraskende, trenger Lot snart å bli reddet da han blir involvert i en krig og båret ut som et gissel (fange). Abraham bor ved eiketrærne i Mamre og drar avsted, sammen med Mamre og hans allierte for å redde Lot. Og nå sier forfatteren igjen ”eiketrærne i Mamre” og vi tenker ”Oi, Lot er i trøbbel igjen!”.

Og vi har rett. 16 Så brøt mennene opp derfra og så i retning av Sodoma

Sodoma er deres destinasjon. Det er der Herren og hans engler skulle. Så hvorfor stoppet de og hadde stort måltid med Abraham?

17 Herren sa da: «Skal Jeg skjule for Abraham det Jeg vil gjøre

Herren kom for å vise Abraham sin plan. Dette var årsaken til hans besøk.

Hvorfor? 18 siden Abraham sannelig skal bli et stort og mektig folk, og alle folkeslag på jorden skal bli velsignet i ham.
Dette er ordene i pakten i 12:2-3 er det ikke? Gud vil vise Abraham hans planer, avsløre hvem han er, hva slags Gud han er, fordi Abraham er i pakten.

19 For Jeg har utvalgt ham, for at han skal befale sine barn og sitt hus etter seg at de skal holde seg på Herrens vei og gjøre rettferdighet og rett, og for at Herren skal gi Abraham det Han har talt til ham om.

Abraham har blitt utvalgt for å gjøre det som er rett og rettferdig. For å være Den Ulastelige, paktens oppfyller. Og så vender Herren seg til Abraham, Den Ulastelige, og sier 20 Herren sa: «Fordi Sodomas og Gomorras klagerop er kraftig, og fordi deres synd er meget stor, vil Jeg nå fare ned dit

Hæ! Vent litt. Abraham er ikke ulastelig, er han? Vel, hva lærte vi forrige uke fra kapittel 17? Vi lærte at bare de ulastelige, de som er perfekte/fullkomne kan være i et forhold til Gud.
Vi ble minnet om at Abraham ikke var ulastelig, uten skyld. Han ler til og med i vantro til Guds ord - ikke akkurat den reaksjonen du ville forvente av en ulastelig - du kan ikke forestille deg at Jesus noensinne ler i vantro til sin Fars ord!
Abraham var ikke ulastelig, men Gud erklærte ham ulastelig, rettferdig. Ikke på grunn av hva Abraham har gjort, men på grunn av det Jesus Kristus vil gjøre på korset. Abraham merket kroppen sin med et ytre tegn av omskjæring, og dette peker mot Jesus. Hans kropp er merket til evig tid for et indre tegn av omskjæring av våre hjerter. Jesu kropp bærer merket av Guds evige pakt for å redde folk fra alle nasjoner, at alle nasjoner vil bli velsignet gjennom Abrahams sønn, Jesus fra Nasaret, Guds Sønn.

V 19: Jeg har utvalgt ham I grunnspråket står det «Jeg kjenner ham». Gud kalte Abram i Kaldea og åpenbarte seg for ham. Det er et intimitet - et forhold - der. Gud kjente Abraham. Ikke på grunn av Abrahams iboende godhet, men på tross av hans onde og syndige hjerte. Gud valgte ham ut for å vise sin barmhjertighet gjennom ham.

Abraham er dekket av nådens pakt, hans synder er betalt av Kristus på korset - og han er kalt til å svare i tro. Abraham trodde Gud, og Gud regnet ham som rettferdig.

Stole på og adlyde. Det er vår del. Leve som om Gud er Gud, som om hans ord er sanne og livgivende, og glede seg!

Abraham er dekket av pakten. På grunn av Kristus kan Abraham bli erklært rettferdig, og så i resten av dette kapitlet spille rollen som Kristus, den sanne Ulastelige, Feilfrie. Gud ber nå Abraham om å være forbeder (megler, forener) for Sodoma.

3. Kristus, vår forbeder

20 Herren sa: «Fordi Sodomas og Gomorras klagerop er kraftig, og fordi deres synd er meget stor, 21 vil Jeg nå fare ned dit og se om de virkelig har gjort som det lyder i klageropet som har nådd Meg. Og hvis ikke, vil Jeg vite det.”22 Så vendte mennene seg bort derfra og gikk mot Sodoma, men Abraham sto fortsatt framfor Herrens ansikt.23 Abraham kom nærmere og sa: «Vil Du også utslette den rettferdige sammen med den ugudelige?24 Om det nå finnes femti rettferdige i byen, vil Du utslette stedet og ikke skåne det, selv om det er femti rettferdige der?25 Må det være langt fra Deg å gjøre noe slikt som dette, å drepe de rettferdige sammen med de ugudelige, slik at det skulle gå de rettferdige på samme måte som de ugudelige. Må det være langt fra Deg! Hele jordens Dommer, skulle ikke Han dømme rettferdig?

Hvordan skal vi kunne forstå hva Jesus gjør for oss? Fordi vi har sett det før med Guds menn som står foran Gud og ber for syndere til å bli vist barmhjertighet. Det er det som skjer her.

"Abraham, kom hit. Jeg skal ned å se på Sodoma.”

Når Gud sier ”Jeg skal fare ned dit og se” ( v21 ) det er noe skremmende. Vi har sett det med Noah, vi så det med Babels tårn. Det betyr i utgangspunktet at Gud ikke lenger overser vår synd, men ser nøye på den, og vil derfor dømme deretter. Men det er et siste håp for folk i Sodoma: Abraham.

"Hva med de rettferdige?” spør Abraham.” Vil du ødelegge dem også? Redd byen for de rettferdiges skyld!”

Er det ikke det vi ber Gud om når vi ber for byen vår? Redd Notodden, Å Herre, av hensyn til alle de som ennå må høre ditt budskap og vende seg til deg. Spar oss Far, miskunne deg over oss.

Abraham ber, går i forbønn for den ugudelige byen Sodoma. Det er en direkte oppfyllelse av løftet om at ”alle folkeslag på jorden skal bli velsignet i ham” Selv om Sodomas kongen behandlet Abraham med utakknemlighet etter at Abraham hadde reddet dem (kap 14) - likevel ber Abraham fortsatt for dem, og blir forsikret på at hvis det bare er femti, førti, tretti, tjue... selv bare ti rettferdige i Sodoma, vil hele byen bli spart: Guds nåde over de få vil oppveie for hans vrede over de mange.

Hele jordens Dommer, skulle ikke Han dømme rettferdig?

Kan Gud bevare de rettferdige midt i dommen av de ugudelige?
"Kan Gud redde sitt folk?” er egentlig spørsmålet Abraham spør. Er det verdt det? Kan vi stole på Gud? Vil vi bli frelst på den endelige dommen eller vil vi bli feid til side av Guds vrede sammen med alle andre? Det er spørsmålet Abraham stilte. Det er et spørsmål israelittene stilte. Det er et spørsmål vi stiller. Er det verdt det? Kan Gud virkelig redde oss?

Og stakkars gamle Abraham får ikke et svar på slutten av denne samtalen. Han sa: «Jeg skal ikke ødelegge den for de tis skyld.”33 Så gikk Herren bort, straks Han var ferdig med å tale med Abraham. Samtalen er over, Abraham! Og scenen, og kapitlet, ender med Abraham vendte tilbake dit han bodde. Sannsynligvis for å tygge neglene, bekymre seg over Lot. Vil Gud redde ham? Neste dag leser vi at han løper ut til skråningen med utsikt over Sodoma for å se hva som skjer. Kan Gud redde sitt folk?

Svaret er ja. Ja, Gud kan redde sitt folk. Mens Lot drøyer med å forlate Sodoma tar englene hendene hans og drar ham ut av byen, for Herren er barmhjertig (det står i 19:16 ). Og 19:29 binder Lots redning tilbake til dette kapitlet: det var ikke på grunn av noe Lot gjorde, men fordi Gud husket på Abraham. Han førte Lot ut fra ødeleggelsen. Lot er reddet fordi Gud hørte Abrahams bønn for ham.

Og når vi leser dette kapitlet, både ser og forstår du og jeg at vi er frelst, og vil bli frelst, ikke på grunn av det vi har eller ikke har gjort, men fordi Gud Faderen hører Jesu bønn for oss, og har barmhjertighet med oss.

Er noe for vanskelig for Herren? Nei, selv syndere kan bli frelst.

Hvorfor? Fordi vi er dekket av nådens pakt.

Hvorfor? Fordi Kristus er i forbønn for oss.

La oss feire det nå som vi tar nattverd. Vi er syndere, frelst ved hans nåde. Han er akkurat nå i tronsalen i himmelen i forbønn for oss. ”Mitt blod dekker (over) deres synder. Kroppen min ble gitt for å gi dere liv.” Halleluja!

søndag 16. mars 2014

Genesis 17 Be perfect.

Genesis 17

Empty spaces - what are we living for?
Abandoned places - I guess we know the score.
On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for...

Lyrics from Queen’s famous song “The show must go on”. Great song. Great questions. Why are we here? What are we here for? What is the reason we exist? Why did God make you and make me? For what purpose?

Well, the answer we get in this chapter is surprising: we’re here to be perfect. God made us to be perfect because he is perfect, and we were made to reflect his glory. Let’s dig in to this chapter:

1. What will God do?

The chapter opens with God making a promise: 2 I will make a covenant (promise) with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

But hasn’t he already done this? What’s going on?

Well, it’s worth comparing the earlier chapters 12, 13, and 15 to this one, 17. Because here there is something new.

Once again God appears to Abram and promises him a land, a people, and a blessing. But instead of one nation, Israel, Abram will now be the father of many nations – v5. This is so significant that God changes his name to mark this occasion: Abram “exalted father” will now be called Abraham “father of a multitude”.

You see, not only will Abraham be a “blessing to all nations” (ch 12:3) but the father of many nations. And more than that, we suddenly get the idea of Kings coming from the Abrahamic line. But there’s something else, something far more significant: v7 “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

God promises to be with Abraham’s descendants: he will be their God and they will be his people.

The Bible story is like an onion. As we read through the story, we peel back layer after layer of the story. Or the Bible’s like an ogre, because ogres are like onions, with layers (Shrek!).
The Bible is like a brilliantly written story which reveals just a little bit more of the mystery until at last the whole thing clicks into place and you’re like “Ah!”
Actually it’s not “like” that – it IS that. This is God’s story, revealed to us bit by bit, and the “Ah!” moment is when Jesus steps onto the pages of his story and we’re like “Oh, it was all about him! He’s the hero of the story! He’s the mystery now revealed!”
Jesus is the blessing to all nations. Jesus is the King descended from Abraham who will gather people from every tribe and nation and family and language group on Earth into one new humanity. The new people of God by faith. The people who have Abraham as their father because he is the man of faith. Abraham believed God, and it was credited as righteousness we read a few weeks back. The everlasting covenant of chapter 17 is fulfilled by Jesus. And we are the descendants of Abraham if we too have faith in the promises of God.

So it’s this great new promise, a new revelation of God’s covenant. Wow. But there’s also a new demand, a new sign of faith. God tells Abraham how he must respond.

2. What must Abraham do? Be blameless

17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.

We’ve heard this before. Where? Noah. Gen 6:9 Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

And God spoke to Noah. So too with Abram: Blameless. To be in a covenant relationship with God, you need to be perfect. Noah knew God, and he was “blameless”. Abram knew God, and God said “be blameless”.

Jesus said “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:20.

Now the Pharisees we’re used to thinking of as bad guys – they were the ones who killed Jesus! But actually these were the church leaders of the day. They were well respected – everyone wanted to be like them. They were holy men, careful to obey the law in all its details. Righteous? They were righteous. They are the poster-boys for getting to heaven under your own steam: these guys were serious. They would wear the right clothes. They would pray at the right times with the right words. They would tithe their garden herbs, taking a tenth of them to the Temple. Their whole lives revolved around serving God. And Jesus said “You must be more righteous than them!” Whaaat?

To us Jesus might have said you need to be more righteous than Mother Teresa. Or more gentle than the Dalai Lama. Or more lovely than Debby Garratt. It is something shockingly difficult, impossible even.

Jesus said “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of Mother Teresa, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Abram, Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.

The only way to know God is to be perfect. Think about the epistles (letters to the churches) we’ve studied: Romans and Ephesians. Both of those call on us to act perfectly. Eph 4:1–4 (NLT) Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Lead a life worthy of your calling. Be humble and gentle, patient and united – always. That is Christian behaviour. How’re you doing with that?

Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

Be a holy sacrifice. Be perfect. Abram, serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.

But wait just a minute. I was here last week. I preached the sermon! And I remember that Abram wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t blameless at all! He was an adulterous sexual sinner, abusing Sarai’s poor servant girl Hagar, along with his wife, using Hagar’s body for his own purposes. What Abram and Sarai did to Hagar was terrible – about as far from “blameless” as you could get. It was so terrible that Hagar ran away to the desert to die.

And then in the very next chapter God says “blameless”. What’s going on here?

Has Abram – Abraham - fixed up his game in the thirteen years since the abuse of Hagar? Has he turned over a new leaf, tried really hard – you know, brushed his teeth, shined his sandals, combed his hair, used New Spice? Is that’s what’s happened?

Well, it might be nice to imagine so, and maybe that’s what you were taught at Sunday school: Abraham was a good guy, so God liked him, and was his friend. He scanned the hearts of all the people, and saw Abraham’s heart was good, and so chose him. That kind of nonsense is all around us: the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach it, prosperity gospel peddlers teach it, most of the State churches appear to teach it, most of the Sunday School material seems to teach it. Be good, and then God will like you.

That is a lie.

Because if you actually READ what the Bible says, instead of what you think it says….well, the message is quite different. Abraham has not changed. Oh, he’s certainly grown in his faith, no doubt about that! Only a man trusting that God could raise the dead would be willing to sacrifice his son whom he loved (chapter 22).
But he still lies about his wife Sarah being his sister (in chapter 20), and this time he really has no excuse! He just doesn’t have enough faith to believe God’s promises.
He laughs when God says he’ll have a son in this very chapter (v17).
He allows his wife to abuse Hagar and Ishmael and send them out into the desert to die (chapter 21).
Abraham is no saint. He’s not really the type of man you’d want your daughters to marry, is he? He’s the kind of leader who would be in Telen all too often for the wrong reasons (or in Se og Hør: exclusive interview with Hagar “He sent me away to die!”).

Abraham was not perfect. He did not try really hard and become perfect. He is not perfect, not blameless. Yet God says to him “be blameless”. God says to us “be blameless”.

What’s going on?!! How can we do this?

Well, here we come to a great truth at the heart of the Bible. To borrow from Major Ian Thomas: if we are made in God’s perfect image, why should He not demand perfection from us. It is a perfectly reasonable demand. That demand only seems unreasonable to us because we’re missing something, something so obvious, so clear, so necessary. Sin clouds our minds because sin says “I am God!”.
What’s missing is this: God. God Himself. He is the missing piece of the puzzle. To quote: “When God made you and me, His intention was that we in normality would be seen as different to the animal kingdom by a quality of life and behaviour that would allow for absolutely no possible explanation but God within us.”

We were designed needing God to be fully human. There is indeed a God-shaped hole in each of us. We are designed to be perfect, but we were NOT designed to achieve that perfection on our own. We must have God’s perfection, God’s righteousness, in order to be perfect, be righteous. True humanity, really LIVING, is only found when God lives within us. He is our life.

And that’s why God says to Abraham, says to us: be perfect. Be like me, for I am with you. 7 I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Man without God is like a car with no engine. He is our engine, our driving force. Without him, we are nothing. Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.

3. How can we be blameless?

Well, there was a big clue a few chapters back, just before the big mess with Hagar. Turn back to chapter 15, verse 6: And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.

In the story of Noah, we read that everything humans thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil (6:5), but v8 Noah found favour with the Lord”.

In v1 of Ephesians 4 it says Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

Therefore. Because of what God has done. Because you’ve been called by God.

Verse 1 of Romans 12 says the same thing. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.

And so. Because of all he has done for you. How often we skip over those words! But that’s the truth. Never remove moral exhortation from its redemptive context. That means never preach “this is how you behave” without the gospel of grace. We are saved. We are declared righteous. So be what you are!
It’s not try really hard, but be what you now are: a new creation.
It’s like saying to a car with no engine: drive vs. saying to a car with a new engine fitted: drive. One is impossible, one is perfectly natural!
Christian, be what you are. Let the Holy Spirit transform you. Give yourself over to God: your time, your money, your relationships, your love life, your sex life, your friendships, your work, your dreams, your career, your “rights”. Everything you are, everything you have – give it over to God. You belong to him.

The sign that Abraham believed that he was forgiven by God, that he belonged to God, was circumcision. His body was marked: a sign that he and all his descendants belonged to God. 10 This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. 11 You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. …13 All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant.

His circumcision was a sign of the covenant. It was a sign of his faith. Because we humans are rather stupid, Israel kept getting that wrong and trusting in the sign rather than having faith! “Oh, I’ve got the sign, I don’t need to trust God!” Whoops.

The external sign symbolised an internal change. That’s why the New Testament talks about a circumcision of the heart, and why our sign is not circumcision but baptism. We do not bear the mark in our own bodies, because that mark was pointing towards the One whose body would be marked for our sins.
Jesus is our sign of circumcision. His body bore the mark of God’s everlasting covenant. Eternally, his body is scarred.

And so in baptism we celebrate our old life being put to death with Jesus on the cross, and us being raised to new life with him in his resurrection. We are a new creation, with new, circumcised hearts. Hearts that belong to God.

So we then are part of the multitude of nations that come from Abraham. He is our father, not by blood, but by faith. And we are part of that amazing promise in v7 “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
He is our God because our King, Abrahams descendant, Jesus, the Christ, bore our sins upon the Cross, took the mark of the covenant in his own body, and won for us the righteousness of God, so that we can believe and God be counted as righteous.

In Christ, you are fully human. Friends, rejoice! And start living out what God’s put in you. Yes, you will stumble and fall, but remember that Jesus has already borne your sins: you are counted as righteous. And stand and carry on. Abraham stumbled many times – but each time he was forgiven, blessed, raised up. Have faith. Trust God’s word. You are forgiven in Christ.

This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. He is our God.

Our response? I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.

Praise God that he himself bore the marks in his body to cover our sins, to give us a new heart, and make us new creations: truly human. Thank you Father.

1.Mosebok 17 Vær fullkommen

1.Mosebok 17

Empty spaces - what are we living for?
Abandoned places - I guess we know the score.
On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for...

Teksten fra Queens berømte sang "The Show must go on". Stor sang. Store spørsmål. Hvorfor er vi her? Hva er vi her for? Hva er grunnen til at vi eksisterer? Hvorfor skapte Gud deg og meg? For hvilket formål?

Svaret vi får i dette kapitlet er overraskende: for å være fullkommen (perfekt, feilfrie, ulastelig). Gud skapte oss til å være fullkomne fordi han er fullkommen, og vi ble skapt for å gjenspeile hans fullkommenhet, hans herlighet.
La oss granske nærmere i dette kapitlet!

1. Hva er det Gud skal gjøre?

Kapittelet åpner med Guds løfte: 2 Jeg skal opprette Min pakt (løfte) mellom Meg og deg, og Jeg skal gjøre deg overmåte tallrik.

Men har han ikke allerede gjort dette? Hva er det som foregår?

Vel, det er verdt å sammenligne de tidligere kapitlene 12, 13 og 15 med dette, 17. Fordi her er det noe nytt!

Igjen lover Gud Abram et land, et folkeslag og velsignelser. Men i stedet for en nasjon, Israel, skal Abram nå bli far til mange nasjoner-v5. Dette er så viktig at Gud forandrer navnet hans for å bemerke denne anledningen: Abram "opphøyet far" blir nå kalt Abraham "far for mange folkeslag".

Som dere skjønner, ikke bare vil Abraham være en «velsignelse for alle slekter på jorden» (kap 12:3) men far til mange folkeslag. Og mer enn det, får vi vite at Konger skal stamme fra Abraham. Men det er enda noe mer, noe kjempestort: v7 Jeg skal opprette Min pakt mellom Meg og deg og din ætt etter deg i alle de slektsledd som kommer. Den skal være en evig pakt, og Jeg skal være Gud for deg og din ætt etter deg.

Gud lover å være med Abrahams etterkommere: han vil være deres Gud og de vil være hans folk.

Bibelens historie er som en løk. Mens vi leser igjennom, skreller vi tilbake lag etter lag av åpenbaringer. Bibelen er en genial roman som avslører bare litt mer av mysteriet før til slutt hele greia klikker på plass og du sier "Å!". Dette er Guds historie, åpenbart for oss litt etter litt, og "Å!" øyeblikket er når Jesus trer inn på sidene i historien han skriver og vi sier "Å, det var jo han alt handlet om! Jesus er helten i historien! Han er mysteriet som nå er åpenbart!"

Jesus er velsignelsen for alle folkeslag. Jesus er kongen som stammer fra Abraham som vil samle folk fra alle slekter og nasjoner og familier og språk grupper på jorden i en ny menneskehet. Guds nye folk ved tro. De som har Abraham som sin far - fordi han er troens mann. Abraham trodde Gud, og derfor regnet Gud ham som rettferdig leste vi noen uker tilbake. Den evige pakten i kapittel 17 er oppfylt av Jesus. Vi er Abrahams ætt (etterkommere) hvis vi også har tro på Guds løfter.

Så dette er det flotte nye løftet, en ny åpenbaring av Guds pakt. Fantastisk! Men det er også et nytt krav, et nytt tegn ved tro. Gud forteller Abraham hvordan han må reagere.

2. Hva må Abraham være? Vær ulastelig

17:1 Da Abram var nittini år gammel, viste Herren seg for Abram og sa til ham:«Jeg er Den Allmektige Gud. Du skal vandre for Mitt ansikt og være ulastelig. (Ulastelig betyr som ikke kan kritiseres eller lastes, uklanderlig, feilfrie, perfekt, uten blemmer)

Vi har hørt dette før. Hvor? Noah. 1.Mos 6:9 Noah var en rettferdig mann, han var ulastelig blant sine samtidige. Noah vandret med Gud. Og Gud talte til Noah. Så også med Abram: Ulastelig.

For å være i et paktsforhold til Gud, må du være fullkommen. Noah kjente Gud, og han var "ulastelig". Abram kjente Gud, og Gud sa "vær ulastelig".

Jesus sa For Jeg sier dere at hvis ikke deres rettferdighet langt overgår den til de skriftlærde og fariseerne, skal dere aldri komme inn i Himlenes rike." Matt 5:20.

Vi er vant til å tenke på fariseerne som skurkene – det var jo de som drepte Jesus! Men egentlig var de ’kirke’ lederne den gangen. De ble høyt respektert - alle ville være som dem. De var hellige menn, påpasselige på å adlyde loven i alle detaljer. Rettferdige? De var rettferdige. De var plakatguttene for de som ville komme til himmelen ved sin egen kraft: disse gutta tok ting på alvor! De hadde de rette klærne. De ba til rett tid med de riktige ordene. De betalte tienden til og med av hage urtene som de tok med til templet. Livet dreide seg om å tjene Gud. Og Jesus sa "Du må være mer rettferdig enn dem!" Hæææ?

Til oss kunne Jesus ha sagt du må være mer rettferdig enn Moder Teresa. Eller mer langmodig enn Dalai Lama. Eller skjønnere enn Debby Garratt. Det er forferdelig vanskelig, helt umulig, kort sagt.

Jesus sa "For jeg sier deg, med mindre din rettferdighet overstiger Moder Teresas, vil du aldri komme inn i himmelriket."

Abram, vandre for Mitt ansikt og vær ulastelig. (Bibelspråk for tjen meg og være feilfrie)

Den eneste måten å kjenne Gud på er å være fullkommen. Tenk på brevene (til menighetene) vi har studert: romerne og efeserne. Begge disse oppfordrer oss til å være fullkomne. Ef 4:1–3 1 Jeg, som er fange i Herren, formaner dere da til å vandre verdig det kall som dere ble kalt med, 2 med all ydmykhet og mildhet, med tålmodighet, så dere bærer over med hverandre i kjærlighet, 3 og legger vinn på å bevare Åndens enhet i fredens bånd!

Lev et liv verdig ditt kall. Vær ydmyk og mild, tålmodig og i enhet -alltid. Det er kristen atferd. Klarer du dette?

Romerne 12:1 likeså: Jeg oppmuntrer dere derfor, søsken, ved Guds barmhjertighet, at dere framstiller deres kropper som et levende offer, hellig og velbehagelig for Gud. Dette er deres åndelige gudstjeneste.

Være et hellig offer. Være fullkommen. Abram, vandre for Mitt ansikt og vær ulastelig.

Men vent bare litt. Jeg var her forrige uke. Det var jeg som preka! Og jeg husker at Abram ikke var fullkommen. Han var ikke ulastelig heller! Han var en utro seksuell synder, misbrukte Sarais stakkars tjenerjente Hagar, og sammen med sin kone, brukte Hagars kropp til sine egne formål. Det Abram og Sarai gjorde mot Hagar var forferdelig – omtrent så langt fra "ulastelig" som du kan komme. Det var så grusomt at Hagar rømte ut i ørkenen for å dø.

Og så i neste kapittel sier Gud "ulastelig". Hva skjer her?

Har Abram - Abraham – ordna opp i livet sitt de tretten årene siden han misbrukte Hagar? Har han bladd over et nytt ark, prøvd skikkelig hardt - du vet, børstet tennene, pussa sandalene, kjemmet håret, brukt New Spice? Er det det som har skjedd?

Vel, det kunne vært fint å forestille seg det, og kanskje det er det du har lært på søndagsskolen: Abraham var en god mann, så Gud likte ham, og var hans venn. Han ”skannet” hjertene til alle mennesker og så at Abraham hadde et godt hjerte, og så valgte Gud ham. Den slags tull hører vi hele tiden: for eksempel lærer Jehovas Vitner dette, herlighetsteologien forkynner det, de fleste i Den Norske Kirke synes å lære det, og det virker som mesteparten av søndagsskolene lærer det. Vær god og snill, da vil Gud like deg.

Det er en løgn.

Fordi hvis du faktisk LESER hva Bibelen sier, i stedet for det du tror den sier... vel, da er budskapet helt annerledes. Abraham har ikke forandret seg. Jo, han har sikkert vokst i sin tro, ingen tvil om det! Bare en mann med full tillit til at Gud kunne vekke opp fra de døde ville være villig til å ofre sin sønn som han elsket (kapittel 22).
Men han er fortsatt en løgner og sier at kona Sarah er hans søster (i kapittel 20), og denne gangen har han virkelig ingen unnskyldning! Han har ikke nok tro på Guds løfter.
Han ler når Gud sier han vil få en sønn i dette kapitlet (v17).
Han lar kona si misbruke Hagar og Ismael (igjen!!) og sender dem ut i ørkenen for å dø (kapittel 21).

Abraham er ingen sankt. Han er egentlig ikke den type mann du ønsker at din datter skal gifte seg med, er han? Han er den type leder som ville vært i Telen altfor ofte pga store feiltrinn (eller Se og Hør: eksklusivt intervju med Hagar "Han sendte meg bort for å dø!").

Abraham var ikke fullkommen. Det var ikke slik at han strevde skikkelig hardt og så ble han fullkommen. Han er ikke fullkommen, ikke ulastelig. Likevel sier Gud til ham "vær ulastelig, fullkommen". Gud sier til oss "vær fullkommen".

Hva er det som foregår?!! Hvordan kan vi gjøre dette?

Vel, her kommer vi til en av de store sannhetene i hjertet av Bibelen. La meg sitere fra Major Ian Thomas: Hvis vi er skapt i Guds perfekte/ fullkomne bilde, hvorfor kan han ikke kreve perfeksjon/ fullkommenhet fra oss. Det er et helt rimelig krav. Men dette kravet synes helt urimelig for oss fordi vi mangler noe, noe så opplagt, så soleklart, så nødvendig. Synd overskygger våre sinn fordi synd sier "Jeg er Gud!".
Hva som mangler er dette: Gud. Gud selv. Han er den manglende brikken i puslespillet. Jeg siterer: "Når Gud skapte deg og meg, var hans intensjon at det som vil skille oss ut fra dyreriket er en livskvalitet og atferd som ville tillate for absolutt ingen annen mulig forklaring enn Gud i oss."

Vi var skapt å behøve Gud for å være fullstendige mennesker. Det er virkelig et Gud-formet tomrom i hver av oss. Vi er designet for å være fullkomne, men vi var IKKE designet for å oppnå denne fullkommenheten på egen hånd. Vi må ha Guds fullkommenhet, Guds rettferdighet, for å være fullkomne, være rettferdige. Sann menneskelighet, å være virkelig levende, finnes bare når Gud bor i oss. Han er vårt liv.

Og det er derfor Gud sier til Abraham, og sier til oss: vær fullkommen. Bli som meg, for jeg er med deg. 7 jeg vil alltid være din Gud og dine etterkommeres Gud.

Mennesker uten Gud er som en bil uten motor. Han er vår motor, vår drivkraft. Uten ham er vi intet. Vandre for Mitt ansikt og vær ulastelig.

3. Hvordan kan vi være ulastelige?

Bla tilbake til kapittel 15, vers 6: Og [Abram] trodde på Herren, og Han regnet ham det til rettferdighet.

I historien om Noah, leser vi at hver hensikt i [menneskets] hjertes tanker bare var onde hele dagen (6:5), 8 Men Noah fant nåde for Herrens øyne.

I Efeserne 4 v1 står det Jeg, som er fange i Herren, formaner dere da til å vandre verdig det kall som dere ble kalt med

Da. På grunn av hva Gud har gjort. Fordi du har blitt kalt av Gud.

Vers 1 i Romerne 12 sier det samme. Jeg oppmuntrer dere derfor, søsken, ved Guds barmhjertighet, at dere framstiller deres kropper som et levende offer, hellig og velbehagelig for Gud.

Derfor. Ved Guds barmhjertighet (som vi akkurat har brukt 12 kapitler på å lese om!) Hvor ofte hopper vi over disse ordene! Men det er sannheten. Aldri fjern moralske oppfordringer fra sin forløsende sammenheng. Det betyr: aldri forkynn "Dette er hvordan du må oppføre deg" uten evangeliet om nåde. Vi ER frelst. Vi ER erklært rettferdige. Vær den du nå er!

Det er ikke: virkelig strev, men heller: vær hva du nå er: en ny skapning.
Det er som å si til en bil uten motor: kjør, kontra det å si til en bil med en nymontert motor: kjør. En er umulig, en helt naturlig!

Du som er en kristen, vær den du er. La den Hellige Ånd forvandle deg. Gi deg selv til Gud: din tid, penger, relasjoner, kjærlighetsliv, ditt sexliv, vennskap, arbeid, drømmene dine, din karriere, dine "rettigheter". Alt du er, alt du har - gi det over til Gud. Du tilhører ham.

Kjennetegnet på at Abraham trodde at han ble tilgitt av Gud, at han tilhørte Gud, var omskjæring. Kroppen hans ble merket: et tegn på at han og alle hans etterkommere tilhørte Gud. 10 Dette er Min pakt som dere skal holde, pakten mellom Meg og dere og din ætt etter deg: Alt av hankjønn blant dere skal omskjæres.11 Dere skal omskjæres på kjødet av forhuden deres, og det skal være et tegn på pakten mellom Meg og dere… 13 Min pakt skal være på deres kjød som en evig pakt.

Hans omskjæring var et tegn på pakten. Det var et tegn på hans tro. Fordi vi mennesker er ganske dumme, gjorde Israel ofte dette feil - de stolte på dette ytre kjennetegnet i stedet for å tro! "Å, ja da, jeg har (omskjærelses)merket, jeg trenger ikke å stole på Gud!" Ups!

Eksterne tegn symboliserte en indre endring. Det er derfor det Nye Testamente snakker om en omskjæring av hjertet, og hvorfor vårt tegn ikke er omskjæring men dåp. Vi bærer ikke merket i vår egen kropp, fordi dette tegnet peker mot kroppen til DEN ENE – som ville bli merket for våre synder.
Jesus er vårt tegn på omskjæring. Hans kropp bar (kjenne)tegnet på Guds evigvarende pakt. Evig, er kroppen hans merket.

Og derfor, i dåpen feirer vi at vårt gamle liv blir korsfestet med Jesus til døden, og at vi blir gjenoppreist til nytt liv med ham i hans oppstandelse. Vi er en ny skapning, med nye, omskårede hjerter. Hjerter som tilhører Gud.

Så er vi en del av de mange nasjonene som kommer fra Abraham. Han er vår far, ikke av blod, men ved tro. Og vi er en del av det fabelaktige løftet i v7 "Jeg skal opprette Min pakt mellom Meg og deg og din ætt etter deg i alle de slektsledd som kommer. Den skal være en evig pakt, og Jeg skal være Gud for deg og din ætt etter deg.
Han er vår Gud fordi vår konge, Abrahams etterkommer, Jesus, Kristus, bar våre synder på korset, tok paktens merke på sin egen kropp, og vant for oss Guds rettferdighet, ulastelighet, slik at vi kan tro og Gud regner oss som rettferdige.

I Kristus er du et fullstendig menneske. Venner, gled dere! Og begynn å leve ut hva Gud har lagt i deg. Ja, du vil snuble og falle, men husk at Jesus har allerede båret dine synder: du er regnet som rettferdig. Og reis deg og fortsett på veien. Abraham snublet mange ganger- men hver gang ble han tilgitt, velsignet, løftet opp. Ha tro. Stol på Guds ord. Du er tilgitt i Kristus.

Dette er den evige pakten: Jeg skal være Gud for deg og din ætt etter deg. Han er vår Gud.

Vår respons? Jeg er El Shaddai, "Allmektig Gud." Du skal vandre for Mitt ansikt og være ulastelig [tjen meg, og være feilfri].

Pris Gud at han selv bar merkene i kroppen sin for å dekke over våre synder, for å gi oss et nytt hjerte, og gjøre oss nye skapninger: sant menneske. Takk Far.

søndag 9. mars 2014

Genesis 16: Fools, and the One who Sees.

Genesis 16

Have you heard the saying “To err is human, to forgive, divine”? It was written by Alexander Pope, an English poet from around 1700. To err – to make mistakes – is so very very human, isn’t it?

Debby told me a few days ago about a little article Paul Tripp wrote on the wisdom of Christ and the foolishness of men. He basically says this: “This may offend you, but you’re fool. Because of sin you’re a fool. Don’t believe me? Look at your life: you eat more than you should and are surprised when you put on weight. You spend more money than you should and are surprised when you have financial problems. You treat other people badly – and then are hurt when they ignore you or freeze you out.”

Oh my. I am a fool!

But don’t worry, God knows. He’s very good at rescuing fools. Even the “heroes of the faith” like Abram and Sarai are fools. They were certainly utterly foolish in today’s passage!

1. Eden and the fall

We start by reminding ourselves of Genesis 15. What a great chapter! The Lord’s promise renewed to Abram: 15:4–6 Then the LORD said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” 5 Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” 6 And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.

Righteous Abram, living in faith under the blessing of God. He talks to God in the cool of the day, and God meets with him. It’s idyllic, it’s restful, it’s like the garden of Eden all over again. Man and God together. Wonderful.

And then just like in the garden, the woman is tempted to sin, twisting God’s word – and she gives in to temptation, ignores God, and creates her own solution to her problem instead of God’s solution. Then she comes to the man and says: here is my solution, and he listens to her instead of God, calling her solution “good” and God’s solution therefore “bad”.

How often do we do this! God’s solution seems too hard, or too vague, or too slow in coming, and so we jump up on the throne, take the crown of RULER OF THE WORLD (at least, my world) upon our heads, and come up with our own solution. We ignore his words, and create our own truths. Working well isn’t it?

Sarai’s problem was God’s word seemed too vague for her. “you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.”
But he said that to Abram. Does that really include me? It can’t include me. I’m barren. If he meant me then he would have said something wouldn’t he.” You can imagine her sitting there, month after month, perhaps year after year (the passage is unclear as to how long Sarai waited before becoming impatient) – these thoughts going round and round in her mind. Worry is a choking disease, stealing our joy, making us miserable and upset.

Worry is a universal human problem, but it seems to be a particular burden for women. Debby takes a walk – a power walk - around Tinnemyra most days, and she says without fail the women walking there are walking like this: with worried expressions on their faces. Worry reveals that I don’t trust God. Worry is saying “I am in control, and I don’t know what to do”. Remember Jesus’ comforting words in Matt 6:32-33 your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. He knows. He’s in control. Trust Him.

Don’t be like Sarai. Sarai gave in to her worries, and, instead of taking her concerns to God, she came up with her own plan.

It’s interesting to compare chapters 15 and 16 – in fact the author seems to invite us to do so. In both chapters there is doubt about God’s promise. In both chapters the problem is “I have no son”. But there’s a big difference. In chapter 15 Abram takes his doubt to the right place – to God. And the result? God reaffirmed his covenant (promise), and v6 Abram believed the Lord and the Lord counted him as righteous.
But in chapter 16 Sarai didn’t go to God, but came up with her own solution, her own way of solving the problem. She allows her worry to flow over into bitterness and says v2“The LORD has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.”
Sarai was bitter because she had no children. She allowed her “right” to have a child to get in the way of her relationship with God. She was impatient for the blessings of God, and found a shortcut.

And Abram? Well, he listens to his wife in her sin, just like Adam listened to Eve in her sin. Adam and Abram, failures to lead, failures to be a good husband and call their wives to repent and point them back to God Almighty. That is your job if you are a husband! You are responsible to God for leading your family. Lead well, by God’s grace! And don’t be like Abram. “Hey Abram, have adulterous sex with Hagar over there! It’s fine with me.” “Mmmm, OKAY!” Abram, thinking with his penis! And it’s a fine mess they get themselves into.

From Sarai comes jealousy, anger, bitterness, leading to abuse of her servant. Our “hero” Abram is revealed to be an adulterer, and a coward who tries to avoid his responsibility. Relationships are fractured, and the weak, Hagar and her unborn son, are abused.

How foolish we are when we try to “help God out”. When we are not willing to be patient. When he says no and we say yes. I want what I want and I want it now! It’s my right to… well what are you struggling with now? Is it your right to be married? Is it your right to have a child? Is it your right to have a career? Or a job you enjoy rather than one you don’t? Or even any job? Do you think you have a claim against God? You can come to him and say “you owe me”.

How often do I think like that? Standing before Almighty God with all my “rights” wrapped up in my own self-importance, demanding from God what I think he should give me. If you’re like me, say to yourself now along with me “You fool”. YOU FOOOL! YOU FOOOL! How dare you! Who told you you had rights? We have no rights except this: to serve God. That is our “right”. We belong to him. What he says, we do. Hagar met the Lord, he comforted her, promised he would bless her, but he says v9 “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority”.
You can imagine Hagar’s struggle with that command. Seriously? Don’t you know what’s been going on?
Hagar, obey.

Daniel obey. We belong to God. Our lives are his.
What right are you clinging on to that’s getting in the way of your relationship with God? Let it go.

From chapter 15 to 16: from Eden to the Fall. Before we move on to the next section I want to spend some time on an area where we a very tempted to think that God’s word is bad and our word is good.

2. The glories of sexual sin

I’ve called this point the “glories” of sexual sin because, well, that’s what we so often think. Our society certainly does! It preaches that sex is good, except sex in marriage: that’s boring and bad, says our world. Teenage sex, adultery, homosexual sex, one-night-stands, pornography, and on and on – all “good” the world declares.
God says sex between a husband and his wife is glorious – have sex often, he commands – but any other form of sex is evil. Why? Firstly, because he says it is, and he’s God. Secondly, because any other form of sex damages us: physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Sex is powerful. It is one of our primal urges. We are created as sexual beings, created to become “one flesh” and to “be fruitful and multiply”. God made sex. He made sex before the Fall. Sex is good. Good sex is good. Sex between a husband and his wife is good: it unites them, joins them together, strengthens their relationship. It is a deep way to say “we are together. We are one. I am yours and you are mine. I love you.” It honours our bodies, created by God.

But when we take that and twist it – when we give ourselves away to other people who are not our wives or husbands. It hurts. Deeply. We wound ourselves, we wound others. We dishonour our bodies.

When Abram takes Hagar as his “extra” wife, a replacement in order to have a child, he was doing something completely acceptable, completely normal in that society. It was socially acceptable. But what disastrous consequences!

In our society watching pornography – that’s watching other people having sex – is seen as perfectly normal. But it twists our ideas about sex. It’s important that the children are here listening to this because they’re seeing these sexual images already, at school on their classmates phones, at friends houses on the TV or openly displayed in the house. The message of porn is that girls are nothing more than sex objects for boys, and that boys are basically nothing more than penises! That’s what our children are learning. That’s what we learn when we watch porn.

If you are watching porn, stop it! You are sinning against God, saying what he has declared evil, you are declaring good. Look to your wife (or husband) to satisfy your sexual desires! And if you’re not married – stop it! What kind of husband do you think you’ll be if you spend all your time giving in to sexual temptation? A bad one, and a bully in the bedroom. So many husbands are watching porn and abusing their wives in the bedroom trying to imitate what they see. Don’t do it.

You see, girls are not sex objects, and boys are not just penises. We are both glorious, created in the image of God Almighty to glorify his name. We are not animals, but kings and queens. As 1 Cor 6:18-20 says “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.”

Honour God with your body. And honour the bodies of others. Don’t treat people like objects. Abram and Sarai did that. They treated Hagar like an object, a sex object to be used for their pleasure.

We can often fall into the trap of thinking that the “heroes” in the Bible are holy men, and whatever they do is right. That is not true at all. Abram and Sarai here thought what they were doing was right, that their sexual sin would have no consequences. Oh how wrong they were. They were unholy.

Look at the huge problems Abram’s adultery causes. Hagar thinks she’s all that and starts to treat Sarai with contempt. Sarai is full of jealously and anger and bitterness, and blames her husband. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt” Abram’s now stuck between these two women, and doesn’t know what to do. So like any man in this situation he… runs away! 6 Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.”. And Sarai does. She treats Hagar exactly the way she wants to, pouring out all of her anger and jealousy on her poor servant. 6 Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away. Where to? To the desert, probably to die. Hagar would rather die than be with Sarai any more.

Sex with no strings attached? You think that you can do whatever you want and it won’t matter? Learn from Abram. It matters.

1 Cor 6:19 You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.

3. The God who sees

So far chapter 16 has been rather depressing. Rebellion against God’s word, adultery, broken relationships and the devastation of sin, and abuse of the weak and dependant.
Hagar is an Egyptian, a foreigner – the story points this out twice (in v1 and 3). She is part of “all nations” who were going to be “blessed through Abram”. (Remember God’s promise in 12:3?). But Abram is here not being a blessing, but a curse. Poor Hagar is used and then discarded. No honour is given to her.

She was not “seen” by Sarai when Sarai offered her to Abram. She was just a tool to be used, an object, a replacement womb for Sarai’s broken one. Abram did not “see” Hagar either. She was just a sex object, a tool to satisfy his lust, and a womb to provide him with a son.
She was not “seen” by Sarai when she was pregnant. She was just an object for Sarai’s hatred and jealousy and bitterness. And she was not “seen” by Abram when he just ignored her abuse at the hands of his wife.

But there is one who sees. There is one who hears. Beer-lahai-roi Hagar calls the well in the wilderness where the Lord found her: 14 Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). And her son was to be called 11 Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress.

Hagar, on the run, rejected, abused, lost and alone. No-one cares. No-one came looking for her. Except God. He heard her. He saw her.

Note that he did not wave a magic wand to make everything better. He sent her back into the same situation. Sarai was still bitter. Abram was still a fool. But you know who was different?
But Hagar was different. She had met the Lord. V13 Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?”

He is the God who sees. He is the one who saw our helplessness and reached down to save us. He is the one who saw our desperate need, and rescued us. He is the one who can cover our sexual shame. Jesus, the one who sees.

He saw you and I here today. He saw us and loved us. Like foolish sheep with no shepherd. Like debtors with no way to pay our debt. Like dead men with no way to be resurrected. He saw us.
And he humbled himself – the Great Son of Heaven humbled himself to be born in a stable, to grow up as a peasant, to be rejected by his own people, to feel the nails pierce his skin, to face the anger of his own Father at the sins – OUR sins – that he was carrying on the cross: to die in our place.
He did that because he is the God who sees. The God who hears our distress. Because he is the God who saves.

Like Abram and Sarai we are fools. We have gone our own way, rejected his words, called good bad and bad good. We have demanded our “rights” and turned our back on our King. We have rebelled sexually, turning a good thing into a horror, damaging ourselves, each other, and our children.
And yet God sees us and still loves us. He loves us enough to take our pain and sin, our sexual evil, everything we’ve ever done wrong and will still do wrong – he took it, because he sees us. Praise God, for he is a God of mercy and grace!

If anyone would like counselling after the service, if you’re struggling with any of these things we’ve been talking about or need help in making a difficult decision, please come an talk to me afterwards so we can make an appointment to deal with it.