Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Power of Release


Abraham and Sarah were chosen by God to become His covenant partners. God promised them a son to which the covenant would pass and whose offspring would inherit all the land of Canaan. Abraham and Sarah journeyed from the Ur of the Chaldees northward up the Euphrates Valley to what is now northeastern Syria with their father, Terah, their brother Nahor and the children of another brother who had passed away named Haran. The children’s names were Lot and Milcah.

The family of Terah settled in a place they called Haran after Abraham’s late brother. Towns and villages were often built up around one prospering family where servants and tradesmen gathered out of proximity and necessity. The town of Haran is also referred to as the town of Nahor; the remaining brother of Abraham’s who was evidently a prosperous man as well. Nahor married Milcah, his niece, and begot Bethuel, the father of Rebekah.

When Abraham was 75 years old the Lord spoke to him a second time and told him to take Sarah and leave his family in Syria and go to the land of Canaan. Abraham trusted God and departed also taking his nephew Lot along with them. God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations and through his seed would all of the world be blessed.

It was after many trials and through difficult journeys that God brought Abraham and Sarah to the place where they experienced the fulfillment of this promise. When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old, after having been married and following God for over 50 years  that God brought about a miracle in that Sarah conceived and brought forth Isaac, the son of God’s promise.

The account of the journeys of Abraham and Sarah are perhaps the greatest stories in the Bible. They reveal and confirm the workings of God in the lives of His covenant partners who follow Him by faith. The New Testament paints a picture of someone trusting God by using Abraham as the backdrop of faith.

Romans 4
18  (Abraham), who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be."
19  And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
20  He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
21  and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

Needless to say that Abraham and Sarah lived a wonderful adventure of faith. They lived their daily lives trusting God and although they made many mistakes and had continual temptations to quit believing … they continued and ultimately received the promise of God. Can you imagine Abraham being 100 years old and having a son or Sarah having her first and only child at age 90? Oh how they loved Isaac … he was the answer to their lifelong prayers. Most likely Abraham and Sarah were married over 100 years … think of that! But, as time went on, Sarah’s earthly life came to an end.

Genesis 23: 1  Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.

Abraham was 137 years old and Isaac was 37 … what would they do? Sarah was buried in Hebron where they lived while Isaac cared for the flocks and family assets farther to the south in the Negev desert near a well belonging to his father called Beersheba. Three years later when Abraham is feeling old and finished he calls for his trusted servant, Eliezer, the Syrian. From reading the account we realize that Abraham is expecting to die soon.

Genesis 24
1  Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
2  So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, "Please, put your hand under my thigh,
3  "and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell;

Continuing to read the account we find this to be the request of a dying man – his final parting wishes as it were – Abraham’s last will and testimony. Clearly Abraham does not expect to live much longer, certainly not long enough for this mission to be carried out. This is further confirmed by the response from his servant when he asked his master, “What shall I do if …”, and Abraham’s response.

Abraham gave future instructions and a clear contingency plan in the event things did not work out as hoped and he was not around to give further direction upon the servant’s return. Abraham was clearly setting his house in order … no doubt he felt he was finished. After all he had run his race, completed his duty, received his promise and was 140 years old now. Surely this was the end. Most likely his missed his wife and his life and was lonely and perhaps a bit depressed. He probably felt like his greatest day was behind him. He had two sons, one by Sarah and one by her bond servant. Isaac was 40 and the covenant son of promise and Ishmael was 52 and a strong man who carried his father’s determination. Twelve princes would be born to him. The account continues:

Genesis 24: 10  Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor.

Some Jewish writers and Christian Scholars as well believe the parenthetical phrase, “for all his master’s goods were in his hand” is an indication that Eliezer carried papers detailing the assets of Abraham which were to be conveyed to his son, Isaac, upon Abraham’s death. In effect, this passage seems to indicate that Abraham also sent along a signed copy of his last will and testament which no doubt included a dowry to be given to the family of the prospective new bride for his son Isaac.

I for one do not believe Abraham expected to still be alive when his servant returned from Syria, however, he was. The journey to Nahor and back took the better part of 6 weeks. When Eliezer returned with Rebekah, Isaac had just come from the south and the last verse of Genesis 24 says:

Genesis 24:67  Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Mission accomplished, Isaac is married, he is comforted after the death of his mother and as Isaac’s story continues to unfold later in chapter 25 we see Isaac and Rebekah moving about 30 miles to the south to live near Beersheba.

So … what happens to Abraham after he has completed his last quest? What happens to father Abraham’s life after he has released his son into God’s hands? Well it seems like the old man finds some new strength and new vision he didn’t realize was there before. In fact, after Abraham releases Isaac to the will of God in the last verse of Genesis chapter 24 … the very next verse in the Bible tells what happened next:

Genesis 25
1  Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
2  And she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
3  Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim.
4  And the sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.

Abraham wasn’t finished yet!!! In about 500 years his great great great grandson Moses was going to be running for his life, wandering around in the desert of Midian and was going to need a special woman to be his wife … Moses was going to find one of his very distant cousins, Zipporah, a great great great granddaughter of Abraham, who was the daughter of the priest of Midian. She is the woman who circumcised Moses before God and saved his life.

You see, when Abraham released his Isaac into the hand of God and over to the will of God for his life, Abraham was released to his new day as well. Our greatest release comes when we release others to God.

The principle of release works in many areas of life. Parents are challenged to release their children into God’s hands and over to God’s will and when they do, they are also released to pursue a new day in their lives. Pastors are challenged to release other ministers and ministries into God’s hands and over to God’s will and when they do, they are also released to embrace and pursue a new day in their life and ministry.

Each of us is challenged from time to time to forgive others where they have wronged or hurt us. When we forgive, Jesus said we are forgiven. And, when we refuse to release others of their trespasses or debts, that refusal to release serves to keep us bound to the old hurts and pains ourselves.

There is a power of release. Not that the old was always bad or that it needs to be forgotten but rather the fact that God is the God of a new day, every day. God has a greater plan for our lives than we may see from the limited perspective of the past. When all we know or expect is all we have ever known or expected perhaps we are limiting God to being only as smart or as powerful as we see ourselves.

God is so much more powerful and planned out than are we. He has an eternal perspective and He knows the end from the beginning. In order to fully get hold of a new thing sometimes we have to fully let go of the old thing. God is not dead and neither is anyone who has ever served and followed Him. Life, love, laughter and longings will continue to be a vital part of our experience forever and throughout eternity.

Don’t allow your self-assessed limits to limit you! Embrace and experience the power of release …

What or who do you need to release today?