Parashah Chayei Sarah 2019 (Life of Sarah) Genesis 23 – 25:18

Sarah dies and Abraham buys a field that also has a sepulcher so that he can bury her.  He then has his most trusted servant, Eliezer, go back to the land from which Abraham came, to his own people in order to get a wife for Isaac. Under no conditions, though, is Eliezer ever to bring Isaac back to Ur.

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Eliezer stops at a well, which would be the place all the women would eventually come to and asks God for a specific sign that would identify the woman God wants to be Isaac’s wife. Rebekah, the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nachor, does exactly what Eliezer asked God to have the woman he chose to do, and immediately gives her gifts. When she returns to her tent, her brother, Laban sees the gifts and goes back to the well to bring Eliezer into their tent.

Time out.

Laban is motivated to be hospitable only because of the gifts Rebekah received. We can here see, for the first time, Laban’s true nature. Later in this book, we will see more of his greed and treachery in the way he treats Jacob.

Time in.

Eliezer is invited to eat but refuses to do so until he is able to secure their permission to bring Rebekah back to Isaac to be his wife. Rebekah agrees to go, and Laban, who seems to be speaking in the place of the father as leader of the family, also agrees to let her go (of course he would, given how rich Abraham is) and they leave the next day to return to Abraham. Isaac sees Rebekah on their way back, takes her into his mother’s tent and their marriage is consummated.

The parashah ends with the death of Abraham.

I could go on forever about this section of the Torah, the story of the first Patriarch of Judaism. There are many lessons for us here, but what struck me as I was reading was the prayer of Eliezer to have God give him a sign. It made me think about when Yeshua told Satan, quoting from the Tanakh (of course), that we are not to test the Lord, our God. I thought to myself, “Is it proper to ask God to provide a sign? Isn’t that the same thing as testing him?”

I believe there is a difference between asking for a sign and testing the Lord, but what is it?

In Judges 6:36-40, Gideon “threw the fleece before the Lord” in order to make sure that it was God speaking to him. This was, in truth, a test. After the fleece was found wet and the ground around it dry, Gideon then asked God to do it again, but this time have the fleece dry and the surrounding ground wet. And when he asked for God to give a sign twice, he apologized to God. To me, this indicates Gideon knew that what he was asking from God was wrong.

God tells us the only manner in which we are allowed to test him is in relation to tithing, which we find in Malachi 3:10, and that test is to first give the proper tithe, after which God will shower you with more blessings than you can imagine. This test is one where we don’t ask God to do something, but we do something that God promises to reward. It is a test of the Lord, but not a test of who or how powerful he is, rather that he is trustworthy to keep his promises.

I think the difference between asking for a sign and testing the Lord has to do with the reason we ask. If I am in need of confirmation that I am doing something right in God’s eyes, and I ask him to show me what he wants, that is not a test. It is a genuine request for help. However, if I tell God that unless he gives me a sign I will not believe in him…to me that sounds more like a test than asking for a sign.

Faith – true faith – is not asking God to prove anything. True faith is choosing to believe, without any proof. I don’t need a sign, or a miraculous event, or even a confirmation from someone else for me to believe that God exists and that he hears my prayers. Of course, when he does answer my prayers I am grateful, and it does confirm my faith; but because my faith is by choice and not based on any specific event, when I don’t get an answer it doesn’t reduce my faith.

I don’t need “proof” because I have faith; anyone who needs proof doesn’t have faith, and frankly, even if they believe because they got proof”, their faith will always be weak.

I believe, in fact I know, that anyone who believes in God because of some miraculous event will be the first to apostatize because we know (from reading Revelation) that the Enemy and the minions of the Enemy will perform many miracles, which will turn many away from the true faith. If your faith is based on a miracle, your future is questionable because if one miracle convinces you that God is real, then another miracle will turn you from God to Satan.

Now that we have discussed this, I think it is safe to say that when you pray to God and ask for signs or confirmation that will help you stay in his will and show you what he wants from you, that is acceptable and even a good thing to do. On the other hand, if you find yourself asking God to prove something, that is testing him.

Satan wants us to test God because he can perform miracles that will fool us into thinking he is God, and by the time we realize we were fooled, it will be too late. Eve found out too late that she had been fooled- don’t let that happen to you.

Thank you for being here; I hope this has been edifying and if so, please subscribe and share me out. I also welcome comments.

Shabbat shalom, and until next time L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Called or Commanded

Is there a difference? If God commands us to do something, or not do something, that is pretty clear. And if we disobey, we are in sin and must atone.

But what if God only calls us to do something? Technically, I guess, we have an option to refuse without really being in sin. I am pretty sure what will happen is that God will raise up someone else to do what He needs done, and we will have been guilty, not so much of a direct sin against God, but of failing to faithfully obey Him.

Wait a minute! Isn’t refusing to obey God a sin? If He commands or if He requests, shouldn’t we obey either way?

I believe the answer is that we should obey, either way, but I also believe there is a difference between commanded and called. It’s subtle, it’s a technicality, but there is a difference.

Remember that person in the bible whom God called to perform a great act and refused to do it? I’m not talking about Jonah, because he did (eventually) go to Nineveh. I’m talking about the man that God called to perform a wondrous act in His name and never did it. Do you remember reading about him?

No? That’s because he never did what God asked of him, so he never made it into the bible. Sometimes I wonder, especially after reading the book of Jonah, how many people has God called to do things that seem little at the time but, from the view of history, might have been great- but they failed to do it. Or maybe they just never got around to it. How many?

What really scares me is that I might be one of them, one day. I felt called to write my book, and I know I should do much more to sell it- if I think it is truly honoring to God and important, then I should do more than just write it. I keep telling myself next year, after I’m retired, I will have time. Am I just putting off the calling God gave me? Was it really God calling me to write it or am I just being myself: self-centered and self-important, thinking I am someone who has the right to tell others what God wants from them?

Self-evaluation is important, since it keeps us humble, but too much of it can do more harm than good. I want to keep a healthy view on myself to make sure I listen to God when He talks to me. I want to be like the people we read about in the bible, not like the ones that never made it. And I do believe that there are many who never made it. I can’t give you any definitive reason why: let’s just say from my experience with people and from a sense of human nature I feel certain there have been people God has called to do something for Him, and have been too afraid, too choked by the tares of this world, or just too stubborn to accept God’s call.

I also believe there are, and have been, many who are just the opposite- doing what they believe to be God’s calling in their life, but it is really what they want to do and they are using God as an excuse for doing it.

What about you? Do you feel you have a calling from God to do something with your life? If so, don’t over-evaluate it, don’t spend time thinking about it, but right now pray for confirmation (God is good at doing that.) Really- if you think or feel you have a calling, then go do it! Don’t think too much on it and don’t worry about how it will get done (God is good at making things happen, too)- just get started!

Abraham didn’t check out MapQuest or go to AAA for a trip ticket when God told him to leave Ur- he just left. Moses was really unsure of himself at first, but he eventually took the call and ran with it. Gideon tested that the call was really from God, and after receiving confirmation he performed his calling with a passion. We can be the same as these people- maybe not as great, maybe not as influential, maybe even just as scared (at first), but we can be like them.

I believe God has a job for everyone who calls on His name: you know, God never hesitates, He never thinks it over; if anything, He might wait until the time is perfect but God hears us when we call to Him and He is faithful to answer our prayers for help.

Don’t you think it is only right that He deserves for us to do what He asks when He calls?

There’s no such thing as “waiting in God’s will”

The great American humorist, Will Rogers, is known to have said:

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

The same is true when doing God’s will. God’s timing is perfect- no one ever really argues that point, but yet how many times do we hear someone (maybe even ourselves?) saying something to the effect of, “Well, I am pretty sure that is what God wants me to do but I am waiting for Him to tell me when to do it.”

Yeshua said that we know how to tell the signs of the weather but we don’t know how to read the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3).

When God gives you a calling, it isn’t for you to consider or to think about. It is a calling, it’s a thing to do, it is an action not a notification. If you are waiting for a sign when it should be done, you’ve already missed it: God doesn’t tell us to do something later.

When He told Abraham to leave Ur, it wasn’t for a later date. When He told Moses to go to Egypt, it wasn’t something for him do after the holidays. When God told Joshua to attack Jericho, he wasn’t supposed to send invitations. When God told Jeremiah to buy the field, He meant now.

The only thing that God delays is His judgement, and we should be very thankful for that delay. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really proven to make a difference. Shomron and Judea both had plenty of time to get their act together, but eventually all that extra time God gave them didn’t help.

The parashah this past Shabbat and for the next two Shabbatot covers the plagues upon Egypt. Last Shabbat Moses received his calling, and (as you probably know) he wasn’t too anxious to do it. He hemmed and hawed, and nearly got himself killed by God on the way to Egypt with his delaying. Moses certainly is an example of hearing God’s call and not heeding it right away. But, he did go, and although he had a slow and stumbling start, he continued to listen to God. And as he did more and more of what God directed him to do, he got stronger in his spirit and more confident in his ability to accomplish God’s plan. By the time Moses had been leading the people for years, he was strong in spirit, confident in his actions, and able to lead a multitude of people through a desert. Imagine: only a few years earlier he told God he wasn’t the man for the job. Guess God was right, after all. Duh!

Our God is a god of action, not a god of sitting around and waiting. As the title says, there is no such thing as waiting in God’s will- it is walking in God’s will; it is being in God’s will; we are to be acting in God’s will.  We are to be, to act, to walk, to serve…all of these are action verbs. We are not to be idle, or waiting, or planning, and we are certainly not supposed to be waiting for a sign when we hear God telling us what to do.

When God tells us to do something, He means NOW! The “sign” that God is ready to help us is that He has told us what to do. When God is ready to use us as His vessel, He will let us know what His will is. That’s when we do it. Not later, not when it is a better time (there’s no time like the present, right?) and not when we feel “ready” in our own timing.

I believe, and I will speak for myself here, that I am never going to be ready to do God’s will when I hear Him call me. I am just that confident in my own inability. But that’s OK. In fact, that is what it should be. Moses wasn’t ready, but he was divinely enabled when did as God directed. God’s the quarterback, God’s the pilot, God’s controlling what happens so we don’t need to ask for the fleece to be wet or dry, we just need to do what God tells us to do when we hear Him tell us to do it.

No one is ever really “ready” to do God’s will: are you? You may be willing to do it, you may want to do it, but are you ready? That would imply that you are already filled with all the spirit, the Ruach, that you need. When I read the bible, it seems to me that every disciple of God, from Abraham all the way to the 12 Talmudim of Yeshua, gained their spiritual strength after they started to do what God called them to do. Abraham lied about Sarah to protect his life- not very trusting of God, is it? And he did it twice! And so did Isaac. Jacob sent gifts to appease Esau. Moses needed Aaron to go with him. Gideon threw the fleece before the Lord. Saul hid when called to be anointed as king (Saul’s a good example of what happens when you constantly refuse to follow God’s calling), Elijah hid from Isabel and asked God to kill him, Jonah…well, we all know about Jonah. Kefa (Peter) walked on the water but immediately lost faith, Judas betrayed Yeshua, Shaul (Paul) had to get knocked off his “high horse” to see the truth.

All these biblical characters, all of which did great things when walking in God’s will, still all had to be discipled by God, they had to be taught to draw on His Ruach HaKodesh, they had to “learn the ropes”, so to speak, and none of that started until they began to walk in God’s will and do as He commanded them.

We will never be ready to do God’s calling in our life. God knows that, and I don’t really think He even wants us to be “ready” because He will teach us all we need to know. What God expects is that we are willing to go when called. And don’t worry about what to say (Luke 12:11), don’t worry about what to eat or wear or about where you will sleep (Psalm 37:25) and don’t worry about your safety (Psalm 118:6).

My biggest fear in my spiritual life is that I will hear God’s calling for me, clearly and undeniably, and I will fail to move. I will create excuses, as I already have in many ways, and I am most afraid that I may miss doing as He called me to do because I was waiting to be ready.

Do you remember reading in the bible about those people whom God called to do wondrous works in His name but didn’t? That’s right- there aren’t any. That’s the point!

God has a plan for all of us- listen for it, be willing to follow God’s lead, and don’t ever expect to be ready to do what He calls you to do. That’s what walking in faith is all about- we can’t see where we’re going, we don’t know what is waiting for us, and we know there isn’t anything we can do to control what is going to happen. But because God is calling us and leading us, we faithfully know that whatever is going to happen will be controlled by God.

As it says in Romans 8:31…if God is for us, who can be against us?

 

God Majors in the Minors

One of the wonderful things about God is how much He gets done with so little.

I remember a little poster that used to be displayed in one of my jobs:

We, the unwilling, led by those, the unknowing, have done so much with so little for so long that now we can do anything with nothing.

God isn’t great just because He can part the seas, or bring famine, create floods, turn the rivers to blood, etc. These are tremendous works. In my mind, though, what really makes God stand out as powerful is what He can do with almost nothing.

God took a young boy, and with nothing more than a rock and sling, helped him kill a giant; a professional warrior that was more powerful than any of the other warriors of his day.

God took a young man (Gideon) with only 300 farmers, and they routed and destroyed an entire professional army of thousands.

With God’s Spirit, Elijah and Elisha performed miracles, bringing the dead to life, calling fire from heaven (OK- that is a big one), and making poisoned water palatable.

And through women who had been barren, God provided Patriarchs, Judges, and Prophets.

Search out your own life experiences and look for where God has done something tremendous with something very small. In my life He has awakened me to His word though little hints and observations that I know, absolutely, I would never have seen without His Ruach (Spirit) leading me. He has helped me by sending people to guide me, He has protected me when I drive, when I ride my bike, and even as I walk. He has provided for me, financially, physically, and even emotionally (Donna is the true love of my life and if my life hadn’t been directed to her, well…I don’t even want to thInk about it.)

If I do something right, it is because of the Holy Spirit within me; when I royally screw something up, then I can take full credit.

God is unbelievably awesome, powerful and can never be understood by humans. Yet, He works with us in so many small, humble and simple ways. In Mattitayu we are told that the Father knows every sparrow that falls; since we are worth much more than a sparrow to God, can you even imagine how much more intimately He know us and what our lives are like? And He knows not just what we need, but when to give it to us.

Don’t look for the big miracle because it’s the not the rule. If you want to really know God better, look to the small things. Look for the everyday, simple ways in which God takes care of you and shows His love and concern for your well-being.

They say good things come in small packages; with God, there are many small things He does, every day, that show how great He is.

Seek, and you shall find.