Getting ahead of God
1144 words, read time approx 3-4 minutes
One of my New Year goals was to read the Bible cover to cover this year. A friend of mine recommended the One Year Chronological Bible which divides the Bible chronologically into 365 daily readings. So I started in Genesis, then read 13 days of Job, and am now back in Genesis. It won’t be until September before I hit the New Testament, but I’m enjoying the journey.
One of my earliest discoveries so far has been the number of people who have “gotten ahead of God”. Now that’s an expression used not to suggest that we can out run God or that God is too slow and behind the times. Instead, it’s one that reveals the impatient and hasty nature of humankind. We just don’t like waiting, not a minute longer. We want what we want right now, thank you very much!
But God’s timing is not our own. Selah.
What seems most stunning and profound to me as I read these stories are the consequences that come from getting ahead of God. Let’s take Abram for example. God promises Abram (later called Abraham) that he will be the father of many nations. (Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 15:4-5) Time passes on and Abram is still without child. So his wife Sarai (later named Sarah) comes up with a clever idea. Sarai loses hope of becoming pregnant so she tells Abram to take their maidservant Hagai for a wife and to conceive with her. Abram blindly listens to his wife’s advice. (Genesis 16:2)
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess this just isn’t going to work out too well.
Hagar conceives. Sarah gets jealous. Sarah gets mad at Abram. Abram tells her to do as she pleases. Sarah kicks out Hagar and the baby. The Angel of the Lord finds Hagar in the wilderness and instructs her to name her son Ishmael and says of him, “He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man. And every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12) Fourteen years later Sarah finally bears Isaac, the son God had promised Abraham. When Isaac is finally weaned from his mother, Abraham throws a party and Sarah notices Ishmael mocking Isaac. Again the sparks of jealous and envy begin to fly between Sarah and Hagar. (Genesis 21:8-9)
Ishmael’s linage can be traced to the Arab/Muslim people of our day and Isaac to the Jews. Now thousands of years later, the Arab-Israeli conflict still exists! Talk about some serious consequences!
Speaking of early conflicts, Esau and Jacob struggled with sibling rivalry even in their mother’s womb. Rebekah their mother was visited by God during her pregnancy and told, “Two nations are in your womb, and two manner of people shall be born of you; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23) When they were born, Esau came out first making him the natural born recipient of his father’s blessing. Jacob came out with his hand clutching his brother’s heel, a prophetic sign of his competitive nature and desire to win the coveted first born rights from his brother. (Genesis 25:26)
Years later Esau came in from a hard day’s work exhausted and tired. When he smelled the soup his brother Jacob was making he asked for a bowl. Jacob recognized his brother’s weak state of mind and offered to give his brother soup in exchange for his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-33) Esau was unable to contain his appetite and agreed with Jacob. He traded in his fortune and prestige for a cup of hot soup! It’s a perfectly bad example of what happens when we are not willing to wait on God’s timing.
Then there were Lot’s daughters who found no men to marry and did not feel they could wait any longer to bear children. So they came up with a plan to get their father drunk and lay with him. (Genesis 19:30-35) (I know, it’s gross to even think about.) The daughters get pregnant and give birth to the Moabites and Ammonites – two people groups who were only trouble to the nation of Israel.
It doesn’t take a genius or Bible scholar to understand that each of the characters in the above stories made bad decisions because they became impatient and felt they could wait no longer. A more challenging task is to reflect upon our own lives and the decisions we are contemplating today and ask the honest question, “Am I making a rush decision that will cost me significantly down the road?”
Consider a few examples of hasty decisions that are commonly being made in our society:
•Sex: like the story of Abraham and of Lot’s daughters, when we choose to have sex outside the covenant of marriage we take on greater risks. Sexually transmitted diseases, children born out of wedlock, dysfunctional or broken marriages and most severely falling under God’s judgment (Hebrews 13:4) are just a few of the potential consequences of pre-marital sex.
•Money: Buying what we can’t afford now and accumulating debt has become a national pastime for many Americans including the government! Before signing our name on the dotted line, we need to recognize that debt puts us in a place of servitude (bondage) to our lenders. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. “ (Proverbs 22:7)
•Food: In a society (speaking of America) where even our children are becoming obese we need to wonder what’s gone wrong. While some obesity can be traced to genetics and problems of a poor metabolism, a large majority of our weight issues are simply a result of the lack of self-control. Like Esau, we are controlled by our appetite and can’t wait for the next meal without snacking incessantly.
Let’s remember that God is not looking to condemn us because of our bad choices, but to forgive us and to set us free from repeating the same mistakes time and again. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17) Come to God and receive the forgiveness and freedom offered through his Son Jesus’ death on the cross.
As you move forward in life, remember that instant gratification often results in long-term costs. Most of the greatest blessings in life come from perseverance through trails and steadfast faith. “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that makes haste to be rich shall not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20) Being patient for God’s timing and submitting your plans to His will may not be in vogue today, but it will make you happier in the long run and give you greater peace in the present day.