Sunday, November 28, 2010

Patriarch Abraham Caused September 11

In Poor Richard's Almanac, the great American Ben Franklin penned many a phrase that has been passed down through so many generations that people no longer remember him as the author.

You probably know more of Franklin's aphorisms than you think--"Time is money," "Keep the eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards," or "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

The interesting thing is many of Franklin's most famous quotes are often attributed to the book of Proverbs, although God never divinely inspired man to pen the words. One such infamous saying Franklin wrote is "God helps those who help themselves."

Ben Franklin got it wrong.

But that hasn't kept Christians and non-Christians alike from buying into that logic and living their life accordingly.

One such couple is found in Scripture, the great patriarch Abraham and his wife, Sarah.

God had promised Abraham biological children: "one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir" (Gen. 15:4). More than that, God had promised Abraham so many descendants that they could not be counted: the Lord said, "'Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be'" (Gen. 15:5).

But as the years passed, Sarah and Abraham kept growing older until they were beyond the age when conception was humanly least that's probably what age 75 Sarah and age 85 Abraham thought.

They had waited...and waited...and waited on the Lord to end their infertility problems and grant them the long-promised child. And then somewhere along the way, Sarah came up with an idea just like Ben Franklin did--"God helps them who help themselves."

She decided to stop waiting in faith on God to act...and to act herself, to help fulfill God's promise for Him: "So Sarai said to Abram, 'Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai'" (Gen. 16:2).

As pastor and author Bryant Wright says, "This was legal, but not God's will. This was pragmatic, but not God's plan. It was socially acceptable, but not what God wanted them to do" (p.37-8).

A child was born of the union between the maid, Hagar, and Abraham. But this was not the child of promise. And as Wright details in his book Seeds of Turmoil, this one sin, this one trying to do God's work for Him in man's time, not God's--this birth of a son, Ishmael, would cause the political climate in the Middle East to be in perpetual conflict until the literal end of time.

When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90, God finally gave the couple the promised child, Isaac. But by then, the product of Abraham and Sarah's lapse in faith, Ishmael, had grown into a teenager who would become patriarch of the Muslims, a group that continues to spend its last breath in violent opposition to Christianity and Judaism.

If only Sarah had just had faith in this moment. If only she had prayed, asking God about her idea first instead of going ahead with it and then having faith that God would bless it. If only Abraham had said, "No, we'll wait in faith."

If only.

But that's not how we like to function, do we? We're taught "critical thinking," problem-solving skills in grade school. We're praised for being able to be a quick Mr. or Mrs. Fix It.

And yet, that's not how our relationship with God should be.

If He gives us a promise, we should wait in faith and not try to "help" God--so simple, but so hard...and so important.

Our plan may be legally and socially acceptable. It may make a heck of a lot of sense. But it still may not be God's plan.

And if it's not God's plan....even though our choice may seem to be so insignificant. Even though it may seem to matter so little that "who's it going to hurt if it doesn't work?"...

In the end, that little, itty bitty decision that was legally, socially, and practically correct can lead to one side of a family being pitted against another, to a growing false religion being pitted against God's truth, to constant bloodshed in the Middle the World Trade Center towers being targeted by Muslim extremists.

When we think the decision is too small to ask God about it, think back to Abraham and Sarah.

We could be planting the seeds of our own destruction.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. My ladies Bible Study at church just did a 7 week study on Sarah and Hagar called "Redeeming our Regrets." It was very, very interesting. As is your writing, every week :) Love ya!