Saturday, August 25, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 24 - The End of Following Our Own Ways

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 12th August 2007 in GRIIS. It was preached in Indonesian and I personally translated to English. Newton Life has it preached in Mandarin with English translation.

Genesis 19:23-38

God’s Word is final. We need to listen with fear because what comes from God’s mouth will not return empty. Happy is he who carefully listens and obeys God’s Word, for man lives not on bread alone but on God’s Word.

God did not hide His plan to judge Sodom and Gomorrah from Abraham. Here there is God’s willingness to reveal His heart to Abraham. Lot was raised by Abraham like his own son but Lot was not a thankful person. A person’s mark of spirituality is seen by what he thinks and reacts when those who treat him badly are in trouble. When Lot was in trouble, Abraham always came to help. So great was Abraham’s heart that he prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah so that God would not destroy them if 10 righteous people could be found. In God’s eyes none are righteous, but God still had mercy on Lot and his immediate family. The sons-in-law were not saved. God rained sulphur from heaven and destroyed the cities. The end of a man who loves the world comes to nothing. Material wealth is temporary. At the end of Lot’s life, he was physically poor and lived in caves.

Scripture records a horrifying incident to plainly reveal what happened in history as a mirror of our sin and corruption. If we do not correct ourselves after seeing our reflection we are very foolish. Knowing ourselves is the foundation of all knowledge. What is the use of knowing all else but we do not know our own heart? They are all external, not internal. Socrates said knowing oneself is the beginning of knowledge.

But how do we know ourselves? Calvin said two most important things to know: God and ourselves, and both are interrelated. Further back, Augustine said he only wanted to know two things in life, that is God and his own soul. The reason why the world is so messed up is because men do not know God and themselves. And between God and men, we need revelation. The Scripture records incidents to let us understand how depraved we are after Adam’s fall.

Here Lot’s two daughters slept with Lot. This is a very evil incident. Why did the daughters, especially the elder sister, think to initiate such an evil thing, to get their father drunk and to have sex with him? This is because she was raised up in a wrong environment. Many people, in search for money, move their entire family to places of corruption that are unhealthy for upbringing. This is the investment of Satan to make us feel happy and blessed but step by step we are entering into destruction. Little by little the seeds of corruption grow in our heart.

Many people, thinking of worldly success and other attractive things, send their kids too early to different places, but neglect their spirituality so pay very high price for it. Many are exposed too early to Satan’s temptations. How did Lot’s daughters learn to make their father drunk and to have sex with him? They learnt all these from their environment and friends. Similarly, today we get influenced by our friends and environment too. What movies do we watch? Do not fool around with the torrent of modern society.

The liberals today refuse to be taught by tradition and parental education and think that in that way they have freedom. But true freedom is in the Son of God. Many young people today feel bondaged by tradition of the church and by their parents so they decide to get themselves out of them. They think they are free but later on they destroy their lives in their false concept of freedom.

Lot’s daughters were still virgin then. It means that outwardly Lot had educated them. However, although their bodies were still clean their minds were already full of corruption. Their minds are no longer pure. The investment of Satan had crept in and grown in their hearts.

Lot eventually went to the mountains because he saw God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. But God’s anger was still greater than what he saw with his eyes. Many of us who hear God’s Word are always satisfied with shallow spiritual understanding but never satisfied with the money we have. Our fear of God is too limited. We never follow God step by step at the pace God set for us. If we fall behind, we cannot be God’s witness to bear fruit for Him. We need to synchronize with God’s will. When we get used to falling behind, we become insensitive to all our lack.

The heart of Lot’s wife was tied with the things of this world. She was still thinking of her possessions. She was unwilling to leave the things that were not from God so she was left behind. We lose ourselves when we do not want to part with the things that are not from God. If what we have is from God, He will take care of it. But if what we have is not given by God, no matter how hard we try we cannot keep it. The blessings of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it. (Prov.10:22)

Lot still obeyed and followed the angels’ instructions. But Lot’s wife looked back and judgment fell upon her. God’s judgment started from the household of God. In the midst of escape, the judgment for the unbelieving fell upon those who were supposed to be saved. Jesus said that if we put our hand to the plough and look back, we are not worthy of the Kingdom of God. Whoever follows God needs to be wholehearted.

Lot knew nothing of what his daughters did. His education seemed successful but actually he had failed. He only told them the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s. Children might say “ok” to these ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s but they can find smarter ways to do other things. Many parents do not realize that the courage of young people far surpasses their imagination. They are too advanced, innovative and smart. Parents are left behind. They think kids will listen to them but they are actually very bored already. Moreover, in many cases kids see through the depravity of all the educators. We should learn to be consistent so that who we are outwardly and who we are inwardly are the same. Our mind and our action should be in line. Many people keep hiding but all will one day be exposed.

Lot was passively played by his daughters and the Bible says that Lot did not know when his daughters slept with him and got up. Perhaps Lot only knew when he saw the babies. It became very confusing. Are they his sons or grandsons? God declared that the Amonites and Moabites could not enter God’s temple for 10 generations. Sons of illegitemacy are still God’s creation however they have confused status. Should we give birth to kids who have to take our sins and blame? Should we be so irresponsible? Do we then find the easy way out through abortion? Do we have the right to do so?

Let men who fear God think of the result before doing anything. One sin can cause many generations to suffer. Let God’s Word bind us in our young age where all our sense are still so alive and vital.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 23 - Judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 5th August 2007 in Newton Life. GRIIS combined the preaching of Newton Life for 29th July and 5th Aug because they had memorial service for the Late Rev Amin Tjung on 29th July.

Genesis 19:1-26

God has imparted the principle of justice to mankind through general revelation. But it is special revelation that shows that God is the Judge of the whole world and He will judge right. Abraham had a very deep understanding of the doctrine of God when he made this declaration.

Abraham recognized that although Sodom and Gomorrah were very sinful, there must be some righteous people inside. He had a big heart to pray for them. Abraham himself saved the king of Sodom once when his nephew Lot was captured by Sodom’s enemies. This time he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah because Lot lived there.

Gen.18:33 said that when the Lord finished speaking to Abraham, He left. When the number of righteous persons needed to spare the cities went down to 10, God was done speaking with Abraham. This is the limit of Abraham’s prayer of intercession. We can pray but eventually it is God’s will that will be done. What God has decided in His sovereignty cannot be changed.

But is there a righteous person in Sodom and Gomorrah? There is one, Lot. The epistle of Peter says that Lot was a righteous person who often grieved over the sin of the wicked around him. In the midst of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot is the minority among the minority. But why did Lot keep staying there? On one hand, Lot tried to keep his righteousness but on the other hand he wanted to earn more money in the midst of the unrighteous people. This describes the situation of many Christians. Many Christians want to keep the basic principles of righteousness but still want to reap benefit among the sinful generation. In this way, they try to get much enjoyment of the world as possible, while securing the promise of heaven.

When Lot saw the messengers of God, he immediately invited them to his house to dine and spend the night. He was kind to strangers and messengers of God. This kind of hospitality is very rare today. If we never welcome others and share good things with other people, we will live a very selfish life. The book of Hebrews said that some people entertain angels without realizing it.

But the two travelers said they wanted to stay in the street instead. It is because they wanted to observe the sinful lifestyles of the city in the open square. But by Lot’s insistence, they consented to spend the night in Lot’s house. After that, many people surrounded Lot’s house and asked him to surrender the guests. This mob wanted to fulfil their lust on these two men.

When he heard that demand, Lot answered, “Don’t do this wicked thing. If you really want to do this, I still have two daughters who are still virgin. Do whatever you want to do with them.” In one aspect, Lot was successful in bringing up his daughters because in such a sinful city he could still declare that his daughters were still virgins. Today, how many brides are still virgin before marriage?

But the mob were not interested in Lot’s daughters, whether virgin or not. They wanted the men and kept pressuring Lot. At this point the angels reached out and pulled Lot back into the house. This situation is very similar to the big picture of reality. The wrath of God is coming. On one hand, the people who know the plan of God are trapped in the small house. On the other hand, the people outside still have no idea what God was about to do and still think they can do whatever they want.

The angels asked Lot to bring everyone Lot knew to leave the place immediately. This is an urgent command. But people inside the house are not taking it seriously. Lot is still hesitant. The sons-in-law, who were betrothed to Lot’s daughters, still thought that Lot was joking. This is a horrifying situation. Sometimes people still laugh when listening to a serious preaching. A person who treats true as false and takes solemn matters as a joke will plunge himself in horrifying situation. God is very displeased with such attitude. We need to see what is holy, real and solemn and have proper attitude to respond to them.

Those who can only talk light stuffs will be very ill-prepared to respond properly when serious time comes because they will take lightly the coming crisis. In another word, they have very insensitive sense of crisis. If a person knows that he is walking at the edge of the cliff, he will be very cautious. This attitude will preserve you when crisis comes. Christian believes in the providence of God but He will preserve those who would preserve themselves by remaining in the love of God. And God will give us the peace that surpasses all understanding in times of trouble.

Although Lot had brought up his daughters well, but they were pledged to marry men who are not believers. This is very pitiful. Often parents compromise on this matter because time has come for their children to get married. And many people are raised in Christian family with good teaching, but life outside church and family is different matter. This is a great irony. We should not ignore long term implication of our choices just because of the allurement of worldly riches or what we can gain in short term. We should not search for gold by digging every inch, but are careless what happen to our children. We should not ignore spiritual loss and only take care of material riches.

Finally the angel commanded them to go because the fire of God is coming. Lot was still reluctant because he had too many things to leave behind. The things which we can earn but cannot keep and must eventually give up are not very valuable. There is no need to work so hard for them in the first place because we trap ourselves in that way. To escape we need to let go of them eventually. This is the situation with Lot. He made a lot of money but could not bring anything with him. As he kept waiting and waiting, the angels pulled him and his wife and children out.

What we gain is what God gives and what we lose is what He never gives us in the first place. God gives His blessings and He does not add sorrow to it. The more we accumulate what is not from God, the more bitter our life becomes. Paul said the love of money (not money) is the root of all evil. Many people will betray morality, integrity, friends and faith for love of money.

God is not against rich people. There are many men of faith who were rich, like David, Solomon, Job and Abraham. Their riches are from God. But blessings outside of God will create a lot of trouble. Lot was a righteous man but he did not love God. He sought after the enjoyment of the world more than the blessings of God.

After the angels grabbed them out of the cities, Lot was still not very willing to let go. He asked to go to a small city nearby, called Zoar, rather than going to the mountain. They stayed there to see everything destroyed in Sodom. Lot’s wife was disobedient (or probably not clear) as she looked back and saw that the fire had not come. She must have thought that the angels must be wrong. She looked back because she could not bear to lose all the hard-earned properties lost. God had commanded them to move forward but because of the accomplishment of the world, she looked back. The Bible says that Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt. So Lot left Sodom in a very sad state. His wife died and when he reached the small city, fire came. Everything was burned up in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham declared that the Judge of the whole world would judge right. So God knows how to preserve the righteous in times of crisis. But Lot left with nothing behind. He was afraid to stay in Zoar because this city had the same type of people with the same kind of attitude, social structure, culture and tradition. Lot lived in Sodom many years and got used to it, but after God’s judgment come, he knew that the experiences of the secular world had not much meaning. In the end he went to the mountains. This is very ironical. Initially the angels have asked him to run to the mountains but he did not want to and requested to stay in Zoar.

Often we delay the command God gives to us and struggle to do things our own way first and with pride we say we want to help God. But God is sovereign. If we are disobedient, when we finally want to be used by God, He might not want to use us anymore. Some people think that they want to earn a lot of money first and serve God later. But this is often a lost case. What happen is that often times those who are successful in money making find it hard to stop and get trapped in material pursuit. Those who fail are too embarrassed to go back. And those who earn and are finally ready to serve are too old and have not much time left.

The things we fight so hard for ourselves we cannot keep for long. Old Lot had no house, no property, and became a caveman living in the mountain with his two daughters.

Do we demand of ourselves? Do we have a solemn attitude towards God’s Word? Do we have a solemn attitude in opposition to the Satan’s temptation? Rely on God to have victory and do not rely on your own intelligence.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 22: Abraham's Spirituality

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 29th July 2007 in Newton Life. GRIIS had memorial service for the Late Rev Amin Tjung so did not have preaching on this series on this date.

Passage: Genesis 18

Sarah had witnessed a lot of God’s miraculous works therefore God had more demand on her and rebuked her when she laughed in unbelief. Faith sees what cannot be seen in nature and enables us to transcend nature.

Our difficulty in believing comes because our doctrine of God is not correct. When we understand who God is, we will be able to transcend the constraints of nature. The demand of God then becomes the standard of faith. Based on what did God demand such faith? It was based on the principle that there is nothing impossible for God. In another word, all problems can be solved when we understand who God is.

When we have the wrong foundation of theology, everything we think of God, of faith and of revelation would all be stained. Sarah was a rational and normal person who depended on her personal experience, therefore she could not believe in the promises of God. But we should not accept things only based on physical phenomena. God’s response to Sarah was, “Why do you laugh?”. Based on the sovereign will of the Almighty God, His promise must be fulfilled.

As Christians, do we lose our faith because we have more knowledge and experience? Why do we see phenomena where uneducated pastors are more fervent than the educated ones? It is as though the more we know, the more we lose the basis of our faith.

The orthodox theology has lost its status as the firstborn because we have made secondary the value system that the apostles gave to us and depend on what our eyes can see. But church building is the least blessing and has not much value in itself. The greatest gift of God to the Church is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune God who continues to do His work in the Church. And though our faith in His Son we have victory. When we lose these important tenets of faith, we become a gathering of ignorant people whose existence are not very important. Not only we cannot witness, but we also lose our power in life and in ministry.

Sarah denied that she laughed. Physically she did not laugh so in a sense her denial was true. But she forgot that the Almighty God searches our heart. God would not debate with us and His statement is final, as He responded to Sarah’s denial, “You did laugh”.

The three visitors got up to leave and Abraham walked them out. This is a great courtesy done by an old man. Many young people today do not have such manner anymore. They think they know better than all the old people and that they already do big favor if they talk to them.

While Abraham walked the visitors out, something special happened on the way. One among the three visitors spoke as God Himself in first person. He is not an angel, but God Himself, manifested in human form. The other two angels turned away and walked towards Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Scripture records that God said to Himself, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham would certainly become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children ad his household after hi to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him,” (Gen.18:17-19). The matter was about God’s pending judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah and it did not concern Abraham directly because he did not live there. But God was not willing to keep from Abraham what He was about to do because God considered Abraham as His friend so He wanted to share the secret of His heart with Abraham.

The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was grievious and God was about to pour out His judgment wrath upon them. They were cities with hundreds of thousands of people. Abraham had a very great heart. He was actually hoping that the city could be spared if 50 righteous people could be found inside. God said that if He could find 50, He would spare the city. Abraham then continued to intercede and the number went down from 50 to 45, 40, 30, 20 and finally stopped at 10. This was the progression of Abraham’s intercession prayer. In faith, he asked for more. But later on it was discovered that there were not even 10 people found righteous so the cities were destroyed. Only Lot, his wife and his two daughters were rescued from the cities. How many righteous people are there in Singapore? Why is it not destroyed? Many evil people think that even God could do them no harm. But they do not realize that it is because of the few righteous that they are still spared to this day.

However, Abraham was still thinking of good and evil based on numbers. Moving to the New Testament, particularly in the book of Rome, it becomes very clear that in the eyes of God nobody is righteous. Only one person, Jesus Christ, is righteous. All of us deserve hell and eternal death.

In the intercessory prayer of Abraham, he spoke of the foundation of the principle of justice. He first declared that the Judge of the whole earth would judge righteously. God who made all of creation, who know who is righteous and evil, surely would not do wrong. The principle of judgment would be in righteousness. So God would not destroy the good and the evil together.

This principle was spoken 4000 years ago and still stands until today. The best legal system invented by human beings cannot be compared to this. Even Hammurabbi, the greatest tablet of law made by men, cannot see this principle. The law of Hammurabbi speaks about fairness in trade and justice in court judgment. It says one cannot have two kinds of weights in measurement and it has “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” principle in legal system. This black tablet of Hammurabbi is kept in a museum and is one of the earliest finding of the law in ancient civilization. It is indeed a very wise standard.

However, there is qualitative difference when it is compared to this passage in Genesis. Abraham saw God’s character as the foundation in the principle of justice. Whether good or evil, all will be judged. The Judge of the earth will judge right. Abraham is the first person who saw a lot of important elements in the doctrine of God. On the understanding of God’s nature, judgment and righteousness, not a single person can compare with Abraham in the ancient world.

Why was Abraham so anxious about Sodom and Gomorrah? Because he was a great man with a great heart. He spared thought for his nephew Lot who was living there. Despite all the unfair treatment, he never hoped retribution should come upon Lot. Although it would sound theologically right and spiritual if Abraham had said God was just to finally allow judgment to fall upon Lot who had left him earlier, his motivation would not be right.

Many people who look and sound very spiritual outwardly actually have very bad motivation inwardly. Many people are kind to others, but the motivation is because they know it is good for them. Some people work very hard in ministry, but it is because in doing so they are trying to build their own kingdom. Many people pray very hard and fervently, but it is all curses in disguise. Indeed people who look and talk spiritually often do so out of wrong motives.

But Abraham is different and is a very good example for us. In times of trouble, he interceded for his nephew. His spirituality is very good. When others do not treat us nicely, it is our opportunity to display our spirituality and turn the person around with our goodness. When people criticize us, we need to give thanks to God. There is no need to hate people. When others oppose our enemies, we should not be happy to oppose them as well. We need to learn. Love will cover our emotional feelings. We should gain victory over our hurt with love. If we only care for our feelings and hurt, God is not our Lord, but our emotion is. It is others’ problem if they are not good to us, so we should not lower our spiritual standard because of them.

Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are two philosophers in France with very different views. Rousseau believed all literature should be destroyed and men should get back to primitive state. He believed that without all this education, a child will become a good person who is not stained by civilization of hypocrisy. But Voltaire opposed Rousseau’s view and said that if France followed his advice, everyone would return to the jungle and be back to ancient civilization.

Rousseau wrote a book titled “Social Contract” later on. In the book he stated that everyone was all born equal and accused tradition to have brought about inequality. In his conclusion he said that unless everyone agrees, nobody has right to rule over anyone else. He was persecuted because of that book.

Voltaire wrote to Rousseau something to this effect, “I now speak for you in the court. They have no right to stop your publication. I am most against your book being banned. Though I am against your thought, I will fight for your right to express your views.” This is an amazing statement. Similar to this, Confucius also once said that a true gentleman know how to bring harmony in differences. As Christians, all the more we need to learn to have a big heart towards others, even those that oppose us.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 21 - Sensitivity and Reaction to God's Word

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 22nd July 2007 in GRIIS. It was preached in Indonesian and I personally translated to English. Newton Life has it preached in Mandarin with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 18:1-15

Abraham was very sensitive spiritually. When he saw three men coming to him, he immediately knew that it was a visitation from God. When God reveals Himself, could we discern it? When God wants to speak to us, are our hearts ready to listen, are our ears sensitive to hear His voice? When God calls us, are we ready to respond and obey? A teachable ear, teachable tongue and teachable heart are very important to walk a good Christian life. A good Christian has sensitivity to understand God’s word and His will and to obey His command.

We need to learn to work hard and study heavy stuffs since our youth. When we listen to sermons, we should learn to listen to the difficult ones and to think hard until we understand. When we are used to carrying heavy burdens, many troubles become easier to bear. When we find difficulties in understanding God’s Word, we should not run away and carelessly interpret. True spirituality is manifested when we are able to take the total principle of the Scripture to face all life difficulties in the world. Experience should be understood as the interaction between challenges from the outside and courage from the inside that rests on faith in God to break through and overcome all difficulties.

We need to deny ourselves and carry the cross to become Christ’s disciples. We need to know how to live and how to die, how to trust God and how to obey His calling to finish the race of our life. When we understand this, we will have tremendous courage. Christians know that Christ has carried the heaviest burden on our behalf, and by His grace we are given the privilege to share some burdens and He gives us strength to carry them. So we should learn to become sensitive to hear, to be willing to understand. Abraham immediately knew God had visited him, so he bowed down in reverence when he saw the visitors. But often times we are not ready to receive the grace of God when it comes to us, so the grace of God bypasses us again and again. Many people have access to the means of grace but do not appreciate them. We are so foolish that we often close our ears to God’s Word. The Bible says blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Abraham quickly asked the visitors to wait while he prepared to serve them. He asked to wash their feet and to prepare a meal for them. This is the kind of service that fears to be rejected. So in the church there are two kinds of attitude towards ministry. There are those who think that God needs them and that the church would collapse without their contribution. And there are those who are like Abraham who begged to be received of his service. He went through all the hassles and thought not much of the sacrifice, but only that his service might be received. This is the right attitude towards ministry. We must be thankful if God is willing to receive our offerings and ministry.

Unfortunately many ministers act as beggars on God’s behalf, and when they are given money by the rich people, they are insulted like dogs. There are so many instances where churches’ prayer lists are money begging in disguise. With such attitude, the work of God is done flippantly. We should always ask ourselves whether we are doing our best and giving our best to the Lord. We should learn the attitude of Abraham, who was so sensitive towards his Lord and yearned that God would be willing to receive his service. Many good Christians want to serve, to sacrifice and to give, but they do not see where the altar is and they do not know where they should put their offerings. Let us all work our best, deny ourselves with all our strength, with the spirit of willingness that is pleasing to God.

After finishing the food, one of the visitors told Abraham that he would come back again next year, and when he returned Sarah would have a son. This statement is not very logical because Sarah was already 90 years old and her menstruation had stopped. At this time Abraham had built a habit to accept what God said without debating, questioning or protesting. But when Sarah heard that from her tent, she laughed in her heart. One of the visitors immediately asked why Sarah laughed. Sarah denied that she laughed. It was true that nobody could hear her laughter, because the Scripture said she laughed within her heart. However, the Scripture also said that men look at the appearance but God looks at the heart. Men judge us externally. But God judges us based on our inward motivation. We need to learn to fear the Lord because He sees everything in our heart and all we do are inspected by Him. The judgment from the Lord cannot be denied because He judges our heart.

Abraham took God’s Word with faith but Sarah received it with the eyes of her experiences and rationality. God was not satisfied with Sarah’s reaction. Hence God rebuked her, saying that there is nothing impossible with God. Like Abraham, we should learn to be sensitive to God’s Word and to be obedient to His guidance.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 20 – Have Faith in God’s Word

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 15th July 2007 in GRIIS in Indonesian and also by listening to the recording of the Mandarin preaching with English translation in Newton Life.

Passage: Genesis 17

When God gives a command, He also will give His promise. Each time God gives His promise, He will also give His command. In verse 1, God first promised that He is the Almighty God, then He gave His command to Abraham to walk as a perfect man before Him. That is the organic mutual relationship between the Creator and the created being. When we understand who God is, we would understand His command better and would be empowered to obey Him.

The first verse in Genesis 17, “Live before Me blameless.” is an existential statement. Existentialism of Soren Kierkegaard is inspired by this passage. Kierkegaard said, “To exist is to be oneself alone before God.” Brought to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul said that whatever we do, we should do it unto the Lord. This becomes the foundation of Christian ethic. We will have a bad work ethic if we do not think that we will be held responsible before God. We work not to be valuated by others, but by God alone.

We do not do something merely as past time or just to earn money or to please others, but we do it solemnly and accomplish our tasks before God. That is why only in places with Christian influence can we see the greatest products. The greatest music, the greatest art, most precise machinery and the best philosophical systems are all produced by countries influenced by the Reformation. They have the consciousness that they are living before God. They cannot do their work flippantly when they know that their works are inspected by God, the God Almighty, who demands perfection. It can all be traced back to Genesis 17:1 where God told Abraham to live blameless before Him. If we keep thinking about this, we will realize that it is no wonder the best products come from places with Christian influence.

After God said this to Abram, he bowed down before God and was silent because he knew God was solemn about it. God’s demand could be accomplished, but not by men’s strength. The abundance of the promises of God guarantees that we have the potential to fulfil His command.

Here God made a covenant with Abraham. There is a difference between covenant and promise. Promise is one-sided, but covenant involves two parties. From promise, God now entered into a covenant with Abraham. And this covenant is not only between God and Abraham, but with his descendants for generation unto generation unto eternity.

The sign of circumcision is the physical mark of the covenant to show that they are God’s people. This is the first time there is circumcision used as the sign of the covenant. From hence forth, there would be great segregation between those who are Abraham’s descendants and and those who are not. Those without the covenant mark are the Gentiles, and those with the mark are the covenant people.

Why is circumcision done on the 8th day? Why not earlier or later? Numbers like 3, 7, 12, 144 are important numbers with biblical symbols. The number 3 symbolizes heaven, like the Triune God and the praises to God that are always repeated thrice, “Holy, holy, holy.” The number 4 symbolizes the Earth, like the 4 seasons and 4 main directions (North, South, East and West). The number 7, which is the addition of 3 to 4, symbolizes that Heaven and earth be one, that is, the unity between God and man. The number 12, is the multiplication of 3 and 4. It is a special number, that is the number of the 12 tribes of Israelites in the Old Testament and 12 Apostles in the New Testament. Then 12x12 =144. And the book of Revelation has a special number 144x1000 =144000. All these are numbers with biblical meaning. But this is the first time God talks about a different number, that is the 8th day. Probably even Moses had no idea why circumcision must be done on the 8th day and just wrote what God told him.

After Moses recorded this, after 3500 years later men began to understand. In 1940, some doctors in the royal medical college in England found out that the platelets on 8th day is the highest number. After the 8th day, the platelet number will drop. So the 8th day is the best day to circumcise because the blood will clot the fastest. Often times we doubt the Bible when we think it is illogical. We do not live our lives in the fear of God. We should rather be patient and humble because our finite mind cannot understand God’s word.

Abraham was circumcised when he was 99 years old, and Ishmael when he was 13 years already. All the next generation would be circumcised on the 8th day. Circumcision is very painful. Two most sensitive parts of our body are the eyes and sex organ. God commanded the foreskin of the sexual organ be removed and because of His compasion, He commanded it to be done on the 8th day where it is least painful.

Why would God place the most complicated nerves on the eye and sexual organ? Sensitive nerves on our eyes ensure that our eyes will be protected fully. For the sexual organ, it enables humans to have the most sensitive enjoyment. Therefore, a person obedient to God’s will can enjoy the greatest physical pleasure. In contrast, when a person sin in opposition to God, his sexual organ might receive the most painful punishment. Because God is just. God gives us sexual organ, sexual function, and sexual freedom, and sexual enjoyment beyond that of all other animals. But God wants us to be constrained in this matter. Therefore, He commanded for a mark to be done on the sexual organ to signify that we are the people of God, the holy people. God wants this mark of covenant on our physical body.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul said baptism has taken the place of circumcision. Circumcision is done under God in the Old Testament, but baptism is done under the name of Triune God in the New Testament. In Old Testament, both adults and children were to be circumcised. In the New Testament, baptism is also for us and our children.

At 99 years old, Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised and Isaac was not yet born yet. But the promise of God is not to be fulfilled through Ishmael but through Isaac. God would enable Sarai to have a child. God promised to give Abram son through Sarai and commanded that she should no longer to call her Sarai, but Sarah, for God would bless her so that she will be a mother of kings and nations. Abram’s name was also changed to Abraham after this for he would be a father of many nations. This indicates a new status, with a new direction and purpose. It means to leave the old life and to start life anew.

For the first time, God told Abram that the promised seed is not Ishmael but will be from Sarah’s womb. Abram was quite impatient at this time because he had heard God saying ‘your descendants’ many times for many years. Scripture said, Abraham fell face down but he laughed within his heart. He was nearly 100 years old and Sarah was 90 and her menstruation had stopped.

At this point, Abraham showed his unbelief. God sees our cynicism. We need to beware of our reaction before God. A lot of time people bind God with their unbelief. This is something horrifying. Abraham’s response to God’s promise was to take it as a joke. This is the moment where he faltered in his faith. It tells us that the father of faith sometimes also lacked faith. We call him the father of all who has faith. But at this time he laughed at God’s promise.

He said to God, may Ishmael live before you. In his heart, he had intended to give up hope, thinking that since God did not give him a child for so long, and he had had a son through his wife’s maid, then let it be so and there was no need to bother about God’s promise anymore. But God rejected his suggestion and insisted that his legal wife Sarah would give birth to a son and God would establish a covenant with him.

It does not mean God will compromise or lower His standard just because we doubt Him and persist in unbelief. The will of God is eternal. The plan of God cannot change so God would not accept Abraham’s suggestion.

When we encounter difficulty with the word of God, we often want to lower the standard . This is a great problem today. Many liberals cannot accept special revelation. So they want to redefine what special revelation is. They cannot accept that a virgin can have child so they change the term to become young woman. They cannot accept resurrection so they lower the standard to say that it means spiritually they live forever. These people who have no faith because they are limited by reason, because of their evil and unbelief, often lower the standard of the truth of God and use substandard method to re-explain God’s Word. Do we think we can solve our understanding difficulty in this way? God cannot accept our method. If we cannot believe, it is our own fault. But when we have difficulty, we often first assume the difficulty is not because of us, but because of God. We say that the problem is not from us but from the Word of God. But we need to return to the Scripture.

The two most important principles in the Bible are the sinners are made righteous by faith and the just shall live by faith. The first faith enable us to turn from the status of a sinner into a righteous person. This is salvation. This is new life. We have become a righteous person to live before God. But how to do we live? It is still the same way, by faith. This is the second principle, the righteous shall live by faith. We continue to live life by faith based on the fact that the our new life is received by faith.

We have been born in sin and we will die in sin. When we believe in the Son of God, we become righteous. In the same principle of faith, we are to live a righteous life. Abraham is made righteous by faith. Paul said he was made righteous before the circumcision. The law was not yet given. It was only given to Moses abour 430 years later. Hence Abraham was not made righteous because of circumcision and obedience to the Law. Hence we are saved by faith and we live by faith. Implicitly this principle of faith is found in Genesis. Abraham, on behalf of all who have faith, became the father of faith.

However, there were moments where his faith was shaken. When our spirituality is low, we find it difficult to believe. Sometimes we do not have confidence in God’s promises. When God gives His promise, Abraham laughed as he did not believe that he could still have child at 100 years old. But God did not take back His promise. Ishmael is not to take the place of promise. Abraham’s true descendant would be through Sarah.

It is normal to have doubt because men are weak and sinful. But we need to learn and train ourselves to serve God with faith since our youth. God is the God of promises and He is the God who is pleased with those who live by faith. A lot of God’s plan occurs late according to men’s timing. But we still need to be faithful and wait. Jesus only started His ministry when He was 30 years old. Moses began when he was 80 years old. Isaac, the child of promise, was born 14 years after Ishmael. It all seemed small and slow. Christianity itself began with very humble beginning, from the manger to the cross. But as God is Almighty, it will keep growing. Phil.4:13 says I can do all things through God who strengthens me.

We need to have patience to wait in faith. How is our ministry like? Is it done in faith? God is a living God. He will fulfil the desire of those who have faith to wait on His promises. And God still accomplished His plan when Abraham doubted Him. He continues His work and increases our faith so that we can see that He is indeed the living Almighty God.