Thursday, January 21, 2021

January 21 - Genesis 21, Matthew 15

 Key verse: Genesis 21:1

Big idea: In the beginning, God accomplished His word.

Have you ever intended to do something and simply forgot? You didn’t change your mind, you didn’t get busy, and you weren’t intending to lie. It just slipped your mind. I think we all have. The longer the time between the promise and the fulfillment, the higher the risk is. If I tell you that I am going to do something in an hour, that is much less likely to fall through the cracks than a commitment 6 months from now. Sarah and Abraham (their names were changed by God in chapter 17 from Sarai and Abram)  had been waiting on God’s promise for twenty-five years. Had He failed? Had He forgotten them? Of course not. God’s timing is perfect, and when the time came, He acted.

The heir of God’s promises, the joy of his parents, and the next phase in God’s plan to redeem the world had come. Sarah, who had laughed at the promise a year earlier when God announced it was finally time, replaces the laughter of doubt with the laughter of joy. A child when she was 20 would have been a delight, but it was surely sweeter after waiting so long. I do not know why God dealt with this situation the way He did. On the surface, it seems like it might have been easier if He had given them a child sooner, or not given the promise until it was almost time to fulfill it. But God knows things we do not, and even if those paths would have been easier, they might not have been better. It is in the gap between promise and fulfillment that we learn what faith is and come to deepen our relationship with the Lord. 

God never acts unwisely and never forgets His promises. Romans 8:28 might be a cliche, but Sarah knew first hand that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." When it seems like God is delayed, His promises are still sure. When He ascended to Heaven almost 2000 years ago, it was with the promise that He would come again. When He promises He will never leave us or forsake us when you spend long hours in the hospital waiting room or even at the cemetery, He is still working. God is faithful, whether we wait for decades like Sarah and Abraham or for millennia like the countless generations of Christians praying “Even so, come!”.

Discussion idea: When have you had to wait the longest for God to act? What did you learn in the delay?
Prayer focus: We wait earnestly and wonder how long the world can go on like this, but even so come Lord Jesus.

Key verse: Matthew 15:28 

Big Idea: Faith is the boundary of the Kingdom of Jesus. 

In Matthew 15, we meet a woman whose daughter is possessed by a demon. The woman is described, literally, as a Canaanite woman. Canaanite was an anachronistic term even in the first century; it was used to describe the historical enemies of God’s people who had lived in the land of Palestine. It was not the normal way for any people-group in that day. Matthew picked a deliberately loaded term. The historic enemy of Israel came to Jesus, asking for help. What would the King of the Jews say? 

Nothing. He ignored her pleas. How could the one that John would later write “is love” be so cold? Yet she persisted. She annoyed the disciples, so they finally asked Jesus to send her away. He did not send her away, but told her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” If there is anything worse than silence, it must be an insult. He went from ignoring her to calling her a dog! How could this be the One that John said would take away the sin of the world? 

Still, she continued, and agreed with Jesus, but reminded him that even dogs get scraps dropped on the floor. Her response demonstrated humility (she knew she did not deserve an answer) and faith (she believed that casting out a demon was as insignificant as crumbs to Jesus). The Lord then gives the response that we expected all along: “Great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” He healed her daughter with a word and praised her in front of the disciples, but only after He had put her through the ringer. We should not mistake this for cruelty. Jesus knew from the beginning that she would prove herself worthy but allowed her to demonstrate her faith in action. He was the Messiah of Israel and until His resurrection, His ministry was focused on the nation. But even then, He was ever dropping hints that He was building a new people, not marked by food, clothes, or ancestry, but faith.

Discussion Idea: What physical boundaries are you tempted to apply to the people of God? Are they social, political, educational, or age-based? 

Prayer Focus: Ask God for eyes like His, to see that no human circumstances are an obstacle for Him. 

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