Probably the most spiritually connected passage in the book of Genesis is chapter twenty-four. Considering the focus, it should not be any surprise. You have been in circumstance, no doubt, where you sought the Lord’s leading. Maybe you were seeking His leading for a job, a large financial or family decision, or maybe, like this chapter, a spouse. It may be a nuance, but could there be a difference in seeking God’s direction or following His leading?
Seeking God’s direction seems to picture a believer parked at an intersection waiting for a sign in the sky to point the way. It seems very static. Alternatively, God’s leading would be best pictured by riding a bike. Momentum smooths the turns. The thing about direction is we place everything on God and His miraculous intervention while ignoring our responsibility to continue in His already revealed will. Consistent obedience reveals God’s will. Our obedience in motion allows God to gently steer our life. When we are in the way, His will is more easily recognized.
In the case of seeking direction, in this story would look like Abraham asking God to show him if he should find Isaac a wife in Canaan or back home. It was not necessary. Abraham already knew a wife from Canaan was not God’s will nor was it in Isaac’s best interest. The main observation from this story is this: the obvious must be your objective. By their awareness of God’s revelation, their action put them in the right way so God could lead them. “I being in the way, the Lord led me.” The miraculous intervention of God was the reward for following the path already laid out by his instruction.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).
Before we really appreciate what we have, we often need to experience life without those things. As wealthy Americans (comparited to the world), it is when we visit a ghetto in the Bahamas or Mexico that we fully realize what we have.
The last few verses of Genesis 14, Abram turned down the wealth of Sodom. It was undoubtedly a great reward for the perilous rescue. Genesis is a story marked by God doing things well contrasted with man’s feeble attempts. He takes the cheap tricks of man and does it the right way–His way. The reward of trinkets from sinful men was replaced with a greater reward. In fact, an “exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
The voice of God echoes into Abram’s life that He was an exceeding great reward to Abram. In actuality, Abram didn’t miss out on anything when he refused the reward from the king of Sodom. He was blessed with the Great Almighty as His reward.
The inheritance of the Hebrews was not simply land (although that’s part of it in Genesis 15:18). It is God. “The Lord is my portion” (Lamentations 3:24). When the Jews found their identity in the Promised Land, they ignored the God who gave them that land. When they gloried and confided in the Temple, they had contempt for the Presence who glorified the place of worship. When they revered the Law more than the Law-giver, they crucified the Lord. When Abram became fixated on the promise instead of the provider, he went astray. The mistake in Genesis 16 happened because Abram’s focus turned from the Promise Keeper to simply the promise. In God’s time, he changed Abram’s name to Abraham. It took twenty-five years for Abraham to learn his portion was not the son. His portion was God, an exceeding great reward.
God has made many promises, but when we pursue the promise instead of the Prince, we are chasing phantoms. Make God your exceeding great reward and all these things shall be added unto you. One day, the redeemed from every tribe and tongue will surround the throne with praises to sing, but with a newly found reality.
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:5-6).
The most important passage in Genesis, and arguably the most valuable in the entire Bible, is Genesis 12:1-3. Like most truth from God, this is the hinge of faith in God’s revealed covenant. It will either direct your steps or disenchant you.
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (Psalm 25:14).
Abram has just received an incredible promise from God! He would be the father of nations, the entire world would be blessed through him. God was going to make this no-name guy, Abram, a great name. One chapter earlier in the Bible’s historical account, people were trying to make a great name for themselves attempting to display their preeminence to God by building a tower in Babel. Abram, who had not done anything of merit recorded in history, had been selected by God.
Early in Abram’s pilgrimage he had to learn about faith. If GOd made such a blessed promise, then why did Abram fear the Egyptians? The fear of man is a snare and what a trap Abram found himself in! The embarrassing chastisement from Pharaoh sent Abram back to what he knew was reliable–communion with God at Bethel. This fellowship with God was where he belonged all the time. He had learned the mistake of choosing practical provision (Egypt during a famine) over divine dependence (Bethel). Sadly, Lot did not learn the lesson and pitched his tent toward Sodom. The practical provision won in Lot’s life and it lead to tragedy. Eventually, Abram risked his welfare and fought on the behalf of a wicked king and city in order to deliver his nephew. Abram’s dependence developed to such a level that he wanted none of the wealth of Sodom.
“O my God, I trust in thee” (Psalm 25:1). David knew what it was like to put full confidence in God, but he also knew His tender mercies and loving kindness have been ever of old. When David had turned to practical provision and found shelter from Saul with the Philistines, the enemies of God’s people, he experienced tragedy. In the face of extreme circumstances, the Bible records, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).
This is not a lesson we only learn once. It is a daily discipline. Trust in God when you are tempted to go a direction which takes you from his presence. Trust in God when you are tempted to “help” Him accomplish His promise to you. Only trust Him!
You can tell much about a person by the companions they keep, so choose them wisely. Every person on earth runs with one of two groups—the right or the wrong. As you read through Scripture, you have found you must not be hasty to assume your finite understanding directs your path correctly. “The wise shall inherit glory; but shame shall be the promotion of fools” (Proverbs 3:35).
The two groups are beautifully pictured in Christ’s teaching as he describes a typical day of worship at the temple. Brazenly, the Pharisee stands in the center of the courtyard, hands in the air, face turned upward, piously praising his value to God. The second group is represented by a man crumpled in a corner, obviously at the end of himself, without pomp, beating his chest crying out, “Be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
Which is the right group? Which embodies the wise who inherit glory and which the fool whose promotion is shame? Maybe if some of the members of the right group would step forward you could more readily select the right companions.
Job steps forward and announces, “I am vile” (Job 40:4).
Isaiah speaks up quickly, “Woe is me for I am undone!” (Isaiah 6:5).
David falls to his knees, “I have sinned greatly” (2 Samuel 24:10).
Paul gives his personal testimony, “I am the chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
You cannot ask for more noble companions. In an age where high self-esteem is lauded, in Scripture, it is demolished. I don’t celebrate who I am alone, for that is the way of fools. My identity is who I am in Christ. My honor is found in the transformation of vile into valuable. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). “We are all as an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). The wise inherit glory for God commended or demonstrated his love when he died for sinners (Romans 5:8).
The wise group is the right group. You are in good company when you humbly acknowledge who you are before God. “He giveth grace unto the lowly” (Proverbs 3:34).
Have you ever walked into a trophy room? If your childhood sports hero or talented artist invited you into their vault of memorabilia, then you would find that behind each medallion and every trophy there was a story. Maybe some of those awards would have photos and newspaper clippings partnered with them revealing the complete story. Job 38-41 is God’s display room for Job to stand in awe of the Almighty. Job goes on a virtual tour of all God’s work and God is rightly proud of his magnificent display of wisdom and power.
Job learns that God set boundaries for the ocean waves to go no further. God has established the depths and set the stars in space. He has been to the doors of the shadow of death and has visited light in its house. God glories in the hidden treasures of precipitation. He is aware of the lion’s habit and the raven’s hunt. He knows the goat’s conception and the donkey’s contempt. The horse is his poem of power, and the hawk is the graceful hunter. It is all done by the wisdom which God alone is privileged to have.
With such a trophy room, is there any reason God should not be our confidence? Should we doubt his ability to keep our feet from slipping?
When David describes the Lord as our shepherd, he is picturing us as dumb sheep that have no inkling of the world’s events. Their only concern is to fill their belly. The Shepherd is our provider, but He is so much more. His guidance leads us in the peaceful and pure path. In the embrace of His wisdom, you know He cares. The same God who lassos Orion and Pleiades directs my next step. The God who can knock on the door of the shadow of death will lead me as a little child through its valley. I will feel no evil. Why? For thou art with me. You are chased by God’s goodness and mercy. Like a sheepdog corralling the herd, His goodness and mercy pursue you and draw you closer to the eternal warmth of His wisdom.