When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty;walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly." Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram,but your name shall be Abraham,for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God." (ESV)
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God Can Handle It
Friday of Lent 3
13 March 2015
Questions are usually good things. It gives us the opportunity to answer. We want to confess our faith, defend it, and give the reason for the hope that is in us (1Pt 3:15). People who come as guests to the congregation I serve arrive with questions on their mind: "Why do you do...? Why do you believe...? Why do you say...?" What a blessed thing such questions are! I feel strongly that the church is like Radio Shack, whose advertising campaign theme was straightforward: "You've got questions. We've got answers." Questions are not a threat to our faith or our church. They are an open door to knowledge, and by the power of the divine Word, to faith in Christ who has promised to be the answer to our questions.
However, there are questions that are asked not to elicit answers, but to accuse or shame. Such questions must be replied to with their true intent in mind, that is, not answered at all. Sometimes probing questions are asked about things for which there are no answers. Then we should be willing to say that there are no answers to such queries. They are dangerous for the asker, because they imply that unless we can know and understand the answer that God cannot possibly do what He promises to do. Such doubt is a transgression, as Chrysostom says; a transgression of the first commandment. We have deified our own knowing of answers, replacing the God who answers when and how it is pleasing to Him.
We, like Abraham, should be fully convinced that God is able to what he has promised (Rm 4:21). That means that we may not know the means by which God will fulfill His promises. No sort of question will gain any answer. Indeed, even if God were to answer, we might not be able to make any sense of it, because of our depravity and weakness. Faith must accept the fact that God will do what He promises. Not only do the promises require us to believe that God has the means to fulfill them, but the radicality of the promises also highlights the character of faith. It is trust.
You can't be "argued into" the faith. You can't be argued out of the faith either. The promises of God solicit what they give: confidence that God can do what He has promised. About this faith of Abraham Paul said: "No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised" (Rm 4:20-21). God has answers. Sometimes He won't give them to you. Just trust Him. He can handle it.
"Declining to question God glorifies Him. Indulging in questions is transgressing. If by questioning and searching out things below, we fail to glorify Him, how much more if we are inquisitive about the Lord's [eternal] generation [of His Father], will we ultimately suffer for our insolence? For if the type of the resurrection (Rm 4:17-19) is not to be searched into, much less should those unutterable and awesome subjects.
"Paul does not use the word 'believed' merely, but, 'being fully convinced.' Faith is such a thing; it is clearer than syllogistic demonstration, and persuades more completely. For it is not possible for another succeeding argument to shakeit. Someone who is persuaded with words may have his persuasion altered by them. But he that settles himself upon faith, has fortified his hearing against words that may harm it. Having said then, that he was justified by faith, Paul shows that he glorified God by that faith."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 8.5
Almighty God, You established Your kingdom in the promise to Abraham. He has become the father of all by faith. Send Your Spirit, that we might trust You and have unwavering confidence in Your promises as did Abraham, our father in faith. Amen.
For Lindsay and Jason Toenges, who were granted the gift of a healthy baby boy, Peyton, that they would rejoice in God's abundant gifts and that Peyton would be preserved to the day of his rebirth in holy baptism
For Maggie Karner, that the Lord would grant her strength, healing, and peace as she continues to testify to the power of life
For Helen Weaver, that she would be strengthened in body and soul and brought back to the house of God to hear the word with the church
For Sandra Esposito, who has been diagnosed with lung cancer, that the Lord would grant her healing in His time and in His way
For all those who are searching for work, that the Lord would grant them employment in keeping with their calling to serve
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015