It turns out that lots of people are turning to the internet for answers that maybe they don’t dare ask their ministers. So today, we’ll initiate an “Ask God” feature as part of Thursdays in the Text, to attempt to answer some of those questions. Please Ask God more in the comments.
“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. 9 You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. 10 … with your strong arm you scattered your enemies. 11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. … 13 Your arm is endowed with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. 14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. 15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” (Psalm 89)
God Almighty is powerful to do anything that God chooses. Some Christians have been blessed to see miracles worked by Almighty God. Some Christians believe that God only does what is good; other Christians point to Scripture that suggests God has a direct hand in our difficult circumstances.
Without trying to resolve this difficult issue, we do know that one thing God Almighty has generally not chosen to do is to liberate us from the consequences of sin during this lifetime. We often experience the fruit of our own sin, and often the fruit of sin done to us or sin in our society. So, for instance, when an angry parent repeatedly berates a child, that child is more likely to become an angry (and economically unsuccessful) adult. When we fill our world with various chemicals to satisfy our desire for additional in food or energy, we are all more likely to suffer cancer, even if we personally did not add those chemicals to pesticides or ground waters.
“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12)
When you read the Bible, you will see that the Lord God makes an agreement with Abram (later called Abraham) to be the God of his tribe. At the time, Abram is living among peoples who worship many gods, which would be one reason the first commandment must be:
“I am the Lord your god … You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20: 2-3)
People who study the Bible professionally use complicated language to describe this relationship. As you read more about how the Lord God relates to Abraham and the very large extended family that he leads, it is very much like the relationship that a face-to-face tribal elder of the time would have. The Lord God expects Abraham’s descendants to follow guidance from no other leader and to provide “tribute” (in the form of tithes) to no other leader. In return, the Lord God blesses Abraham’s descendants in many ways. The one most similar to other tribal leaders in the region is by providing a feast from the tributes (tithes) at the place that the leader (Lord) has commanded.
None of this is to make our Lord any less important. It is just to say that the Lord chose for himself a people: which is exactly what our Bible says. Those people are what the Lord considers to be his inheritance, in whom he delights. And when Jesus and the Holy Spirit told the early disciples that the door to God’s people was to be opened to individuals like myself, who were not direct descendants of Abraham, it accomplished what the Lord had promised. Through Abraham, all of the nations of the world would be blessed.
What does it mean to me that the God of Abraham is my Lord?
First, I have joined the very large tribe that Abraham’s God leads.
Second, it is important to understand the “family rules” for this tribe. We’re not the kind of family where everyone has to play touch football or play whist at the lake house, thank goodness. But we are a family whose Lord has expectations. He urges us to “live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). He shows us specific ways to “love our enemies” and “love our neighbors” and “love our brothers.”
Third, it is most important to know that the ultimate family rule in this tribe is grace.
- Kindness trumps judgment.
- Kinship trumps disagreement.
- Love conquers all.
In this family, there are to be no harsh words without sincere apology; no false words without heartfelt horror; no puffery without willingness to be deflated.
That’s what the family led by the Lord God is supposed to look like. If you’d like to know more about being part of it, let’s talk.