Greetings in the name of the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6)
When Abram, known as Abraham later, left his home country, he was seventy-five years old. When he left, he did not know where he went. Abram just believed God’s covenantal promise to bless Abram and make him the father of a great nation. Having such faith was truly rare because he had a barren wife, Sarai, known as Sarah later. Abram trusted in God and believed in God’s promise despite the impossibility in the earthly measure. God loved Abram’s faith.
However, Abram was not perfect. After following God, Abram failed multiple times before God. He cowardly lied about his wife as his sister because he felt a threat. He thought that Egyptians might kill him and take away his wife. Then although they did not kill Abram, Pharaoh took away Sarai to make her his wife. God intervened in Pharaoh. Not because of Abram’s faith, but because of God’s faithfulness to His promise, God saved both Abram and Sarai from the hand of Pharaoh.
Then Abram waited and waited for his son, but his wife Sarai could bear a son for him. Out of frustration, Abram finally asked God to make his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, his son because there was no hope to have his son from his barren wife, Sarai. God rejected Abram’s proposal and took Abram outside to show God’s promise. God said to Abram, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.
However, it was not the end of Abram’s journey in faith to have his son. Sarai and Abram worked out a plan to make a baby. Sarai brought one of her servant girls, Haggai, an Egyptian, and then Haggai bore a baby for Abram. When Ishmael was born, Abram was 86 years old. What a failure!
Abram lived the next thirteen years without recognizing his failure. God waited for thirteen years. Then God came to Abram and nudged Abram to return to his faith and walk again with God while trusting God. Abram was ninety-nine years old. Then God did give Abram an even bigger God’s covenantal promise – not just becoming the father of a great nation, but the father of many nations.
God saw Abram’s ups and downs in faith, and especially God saw Abram’s heartbreaks and pains. Abram struggled and spent many sleepless nights. He knew he had to wait for God’s promise, but he could not see how God’s promise would be fulfilled. Abram indeed wanted to grasp the slightest sign of hope that God’s promise was on the way. But harshly, no such sign was there at all. God knew Abram’s every thought and struggles to keep his faith, and came to Abram.
Yes, Abram walked for twenty four years with God in faith. Abram failed many times through the walk, but God was always there. Ishmael was the greatest brunt of Abram’s faith. Ishmael could have had broken up Abram’s family in pieces, but God intervened to hold Abram’s family in one piece.
Indeed, God always walked with Abram whether Abram was triumphant in faith, such as saving his nephew Lot in faith despite impossibility or failing miserably by making Ishmael as he tried to fulfill God’s promise with his own earthly logic and methodology, not God’s way. After Ishmael’s birth, But God was always and patiently with Abram. The thirteen years were not easy for Abram either. His question about God’s promise – he would be the father of a great nation — had never left him. Even to Abram’s eyes, Ishmael was not his true offspring as God promised when he met God initially. Often, Abram struggled and spent a sleepless night.
It was the 24th year since Abram left his home country and followed God. God wanted to make sure Abram did not forget and fall again. In addition to putting Abram back on the paths of righteousness, God did two more things for this time. First, God changed his name from Abram (meaning father of a nation) to Abraham (meaning father of many nations). God also changed Abram’s wife name from Sarai (meaning mother of a nation) to Sarah (meaning mother of many nations). Second, God gave a physical sign of circumcision. It also comes with physical pain. How could Abram then forget God’s promise? Never. God, who dearly loved Abraham, did to Abraham to prepare Abraham as the true father of many nations. Abraham had never forgotten God and His promise for the rest of his life.
God carved our Abraham from Abram. Then God gave Abraham a son, Isaac when Abraham was one hundred years old. Through the twenty-five-year faith journey, Abraham grew deeper into God and received the son of God’s promise, Isaac, in faith rather than any earthly measures – adopting a son or going around his barren wife, which he tried before.
However, the reality was far from God’s promise. Although God promised Abraham’s descendants would be many nations, Abraham had only one son, Isaac. Abraham had to be patient, and when he died, he did confidently see God’s promise.
And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. (Hebrews 11:9b-10)
Then Isaac had only two sons, Esau and Jacob. Isaac’s two sons were not qualified to carry the promise of God given to Abraham. They were truly earthly and self-centered while only searching for one’s own earthly gains.
Jacob was so zealous virtually all things, and he always wanted to be the first. However, he was born as the second son. He fought with his older twin brother Esau in his mother’s womb to be the first. But he came out to the world only with only grabbing his brother’s heel. He was always obsessed with taking over his brother’s birthright throughout his life. Jacob always searched for an opportunity. When Esau returned tired and hungry from his hunting, Jacob lured Esau to sell his birthright with one bowl of stew. Esau sold his birthright for one bowl of stew. Later, Jacob plotted with his mother and deceived his aging father, Isaac, with poor eyesight and stole the blessings set aside for his brother Esau. Isaac thought he gave all blessings to Esau without knowing he was giving to Jacob. Soon Esau realized what Jacob did, and Esau determined to kill Jacob. Jacob fled to his uncle, Laban, who lived far away from home.
Fleeing from his brother Esau, he did not know the root of his problem. He kept living his life as he used to live. God prepared His uncle Laban for Jacob, who was not so much different from Jacob. Jacob finally met his true opponent. Laban tricked Jacob and made Jacob work seven additional years free by switching Jacob’s bride on the first night. Laban gave Leah instead of Rachel, whom Jacob loved. Jacob never forgot what Laban did. He made Laban pay back by tricking Laban. But Laban and his son realized Jacob’s trick — stealing a large share of Laban’s wealth by tricking Laban and his sons.
Jacob stayed twenty years in his uncle Laban’s house. Laban initially deceived him. Then the rest of his life was dedicated to making Laban pay back what he stole from Jacob using his deceptions. What can we see? Is it the pattern of this world where we live? They deceived each other and were deceived by each other.
But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13)
Could Jacob, as he was born, be the true heir of God’s promise given to Abraham? No. Jacob was too worldly to be the heir. However, God chose Jacob, and God was always and patient with Jacob. Our Heavenly Father is the most patient and loving Father of all fathers.
As Laban and his sons became hostile to Jacob, Jacob hurriedly left Laban’s house with his belongings and two wives, Leah and Rachel. Laban and his sons pursued Jacob. For their eyes, Jacob was a thief who stole Laban’s wealth and Laban’s daughters too. However, one small but profound change happened to Jacob for this time. Jacob prayed to God. The second time, he prayed to God. His second prayer was a much more authentic prayer to God with a contrite heart than the first prayer.
Jacob prayed to God for the first time as he left his home to flee from Esau. However, it was not a real prayer, which was self-centered. Jacob equated himself with God in his prayer and made a deal with God. Of course, God accepted his prayer as a loving parent who cares for his baby.
But for this time, Jacob humbly prayed to God for God’s guidance, and God answered. Following God’s answer, he left Laban’s house and returned to his home, where Esau waited for Jacob’s return to kill Jacob. Even though Jacob knew Esau would surely kill him, Jacob headed home. There was a far less chance Laban would kill Jacob. It was not ideal to stay with Laban, but it was far better than Esau’s killing. Even so, Jacob headed home following God’s answer. God saw Jacob’s obedience. Jacob was far different from Jacob, who left his home to God’s eye. Then God protected Jacob from Laban and his sons by warning them one day before catching up with Jacob.
It took twenty years. Jacob was able to pray to God authentically with a contrite heart and obediently followed God’s answer, although he did not like to be killed by Esau. But his fear of Esau was real. It was intensified as getting closer to home. Finally, Jacob reached Jabbok River. If he crossed the river, he would meet Esau. He also knew that Esau was coming to him with four hundred soldiers, making him even scarier.
Jacob sent all he had and his family to the other side of the Jabbok River, but he himself could not cross the river. His sin against his brother Esau made him fear Esau. Jacob had to deal with his sin. Jacob prayed to God. He knew it was the last prayer before Esau killed him. How authentically Jacob prayed to God! God saw Jacob praying alone at night.
As Jacob fervently prayed, God sent His angel to Jacob. Jacob wrestled with God’s angel throughout the night. Jacob could not release God’s angel until the angel gave him God’s protection and peace. Jacob tenaciously held the angel and did let the angel go. In turn, the angel hit Jacob’s hip socket, which got out of the joint. Jacob felt excruciating pain, but Jacob did not release the angel. Finally, God saw Jacob, who was truly looking for God’s forgiveness at all cost. In Jacob’s mind, there was nothing but God’s forgiveness. His old self was no longer there — filled with earthly desires and a tricky mind to get whatever he wanted at all cost of the other person or persons. God saw Jacob, who was absolutely opposite from Jacob, who left home. God forgave and restored Jacob that night. Angel said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” That night, Jacob got two signs from God: his new name, Israel, and the physical disability that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
The following morning, Jacob crossed the Jabbok River and met Esau. God had already prepared Esau’s heart, and Jacob reunited with Esau in God. God is good. He is always good!
Joseph is another character who believed in his dreams from God and endured and persisted while trusting in God. His brother sold him into slavery. He overcame his slavery and became the 2nd person in his master’s house. Joseph resisted his mater wife’s seduction, and that evening, she lied to his husband. Joseph’s master believed his wife and put him in prison. But he again believed his dreams from God and persisted while trusting Him. God allowed him to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, and Jacob became the 2nd most powerful person in Egypt. He then saved Egypt and the surrounding countries, including where his family lived in one of the surrounding countries. It took 13 years. Jacob rose from one mere enslaved person to the 2nd person in Egypt.
Abraham took 25 years, Jacob took 20 years, and Joseph took 13 years before God could use them for God’s plan. To get to the point, God put them into His special training and carved out one whom God wanted.
How about Moses? God, too, so much blessed Moses. Many Israelite sons in Egypt and all of them lived as slaves building bricks and carrying stones. Egyptian masters treated them harshly and even killed them on the spot if they thought there was any reason to punish them by death. Moses, instead, lived in the palace as one of the princes. How was this possible? Because of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.
After many years from Joseph, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. Pharaoh feared the Israelites in Egypt rapidly growing in number. He made all Israelites forced to labor for him. But it didn’t do anything to the Israelites’ population growth. Then Pharaoh gave a cruel order to midwives to kill Israelite male babies, but they did not do as Pharaoh ordered because they fear of God. Finally, Pharaoh sent his soldiers to kill all Israelite male babies. Moses was born amid this tragic period.
However, God prepared his paths of righteousness for Moses. Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses sent down in a basket through the Nile River because Moses’ parents could not keep Moses anymore. Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses back to Moses’ biological mother to nurse Moses and paid all expenses. As Moses was weaned, Pharaoh’s daughter took back Moses and adopted him as her son. Moses lived in the palace, not in a miserable slave’s house. Moses received the best education in Egypt, and he excelled in every aspect over all the other princes in the palace. God was with Moses, and Moses diligently lived his life. Moses knew his origin, although he lived with the other princes.
Moses often witnessed his fellow Israelites’ misery living as slaves to Egyptians. Moses’ heart was breaking. Moses carefully examined who he was, what he received, and what he became. Then he realized his mission – freeing his fellow Israelites from slavery. Then Moses made all his effort to prepare himself to be the leader of freeing his fellow Israelites and waited for an opportunity to liberate his fellow Israelites. Moses became truly confident because he was the best among the princes. Indeed, Moses was fully capable of performing such a monumental task of liberating his fellow Israelites in every earthly aspect. Moses always and carefully searched for an opportunity and initiated his plan.
Moses thought that the Israelites would immediately follow him and rise against the Egyptians. But his expectation was completely off. None followed him as the leader who liberated them. On the following day, as Moses tried to make peace between two Israelites fighting each other, they responded, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”
Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to the land of Midian.
Moses could not believe what had happened. What went wrong? He could not understand. He felt a calling from God, prepared, and acted on for his fellow Israelites while firmly believing he would be the chosen one to liberate his fellow Israelites, but he became a fugitive. After the tragic failure, Moses spent a long time in Median. However, it was what God specially prepared for Moses.
Moses was truly depressed, and he was completely lost. However, God was with him, and God walked with him step by step. God prepared each step before Moses.
As walking down aimlessly in the land of Median, Moses found a well and sat down beside a well. The priest of Midian had seven daughters who came, as usual, to draw water and fill the water troughs for their father’s flocks. But some other shepherds came and chased them away. So Moses jumped up and rescued the girls from the shepherds using his highly competent combat skill trained as the leading prince in Egypt. Then he showed his royal courtesy to the girls as he used to do in the palace as a prince and drew water for their flocks
When the girls returned to Reuel, their father, he asked, “Why are you back so soon today?”
“An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds,” they answered. “And then he drew water for us and watered our flocks.”
“Then where is he?” their father asked. “Why did you leave him there? Invite him to come and eat with us.”
Moses accepted the invitation, and he settled there. In time, Reuel gave Moses his daughter Zipporah to be his wife. Later she gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, for he explained, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.” Moses was comforted, but he had never forgotten his fellow Israelites suffering in Egypt as slaves.
Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. They rejected Moses once, a capable Egyptian prince, but they now asked one to save them from the Egyptians. It took forty years. Compassionate and loving God also could not let the Israelites suffer any longer. God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God knew it was time to act.
For forty years, Moses let go of all things in his heart. He became a humble shepherd. More importantly, Moses became ready for God’s mission too. Moses tried and tried to forget the past, and he succeeded. Seldom Moses dwelled in the past. His only focus became his family and his sheep in the land of Median.
One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
God was about to launch His divine plan through Moses for the Israelites. Twenty-five years ago, Moses could not carry out God’s plan because he was too confident in his earthly qualifications to do God’s plan with God’s strength and power. The people of Israel were not much different. They were not ready to listen to Moses, who talked about God’s plan to liberate them. The time was not right, forty years ahead of God’s time.
Abraham’s 25 years, Jacob’s 20 years, Joseph’s 13 years, and Moses’ 40 years were all necessary years to carve out one whom God could use for God’s plan. Then let’s question ourselves. How many years would it take for us to be fully ready for God’s plan? God knows, not us. However, we can be sure that God has already prepared for each of us His perfect time. And God faithfully and lovingly guides us through His righteousness. It is our faith.
Then how can we know we are ready for God’s plan? We can find the answer from Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. All became truly humble in God through their journey with God. They truly experienced God in their own lives. Oh, we don’t want to skip one crucially important fact — carving out one whom God wanted from our raw material is not pleasant but truly painful. However, the pain in faith with God was truly worth. We should regard it as our growing pain in God in faith. We want an easy path to get the spiritual maturity in God to do God’s will, but as we have witnessed through our forefathers in faith, no easy path to spiritual maturity exists. But please do not fear. Why? God will never let us walk alone to walk the paths of righteousness. We witnessed through our forefathers in the faith. God was always them and walked with them step by step. God always loved them whether they failed or not in faith. God carried them with God’s love and patiently waited until they became fully mature.
God, who led our forefather in faith with his mercy and love, today surely leads us with His unfathomable love and care step by step by walking with us wherever we go throughout our journey with God. Let’s endure and persist in God in faith, especially in this new year.
God has never given us the 2nd best one. God always gives us the best, although our eyes might see the other way around. Then what should we do if we don’t feel that we don’t get the best? Then immediately speak out loudly, “Thank You, God!” Yes, give thanks to God, which is the most powerful weapon against all our spiritual enemies, including our complaint to God. Satan loves us to use our earthly logic and reason and make a complaint to God. Our complaint to God wide opens our hearts to Satan. Satan comes into our heart and slowly wedges us against God, who dearly loves us, and slowly departs from the paths of righteousness till failing miserably.
But don’t be alarmed nor fear. Satan’s plan is futile because God is our Ever-Loving Father who holds us tightly with His mighty and loving hand forever. God never releases us. Then what should we do? In all circumstances, we recognize God’s love in our lives and just come back to God when we fall. God loves our authentic prayer with a contrite heart, who is always waiting for us with wide open arms to embrace us as we are weary in our failure. God is good. He is always good because He is Our Eternal and Ever-Loving Father who never forsakes us. After all, we are His beloved children!
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)