Read Genesis 16:1-6; Hebrews 11:17-19; Psalm 46:10-11
Some of the new rosebushes that we bought this year initially open in one color and gradually as the blooms unfold, another color becomes visible. Beauty upon beauty.
That's how I'm feeling about Psalm 46:10 this week. I have quoted it to myself and enjoyed the simple beauty it holds out to those who take it to heart. However, the Lord opened that bud of truth a little wider for me when He showed me a real-life example of what it means to be still. In that well-known little verse, we are told to "be still and know that He is God”. Other versions of the Bible substitute the words "be still" for "cease striving" and even "let your hands hang limp", a new favorite translation for me. May I explain why?
For the past few weeks, I have been wearing a shoulder immobilizer due to a fall. My husband has been helping me put it on and off, as well as so many other chores that cannot presently be a part of my every-day regiment. For the first several days, instead of letting my arm hang down and allowing my husband to gently maneuver it, I "wanted to help". I would try to move my arm into position to make his task easier. The trouble with doing that is that it wasn't helpful at all, either to me or to him. The helpful thing to do was simply rest in his care. He has been very patient, and I am, thankfully, getting better at my part of the healing. One day this week, as I reminded myself not to help but simply rest, it came to mind that I had a picture of God's command to "be still". There is something within us that wants to grasp for control, even in areas where it seems like our intervention is merely a little thing, and we simply want to help.
I thought of Abraham and Sarah and the time when they not only didn't “let their arms hang limp”, they picked up the ball and ran with it, Genesis 16:1-6. Yes, I know that was a big mistake, and they didn't consult God. However, as I thought of their situation this week, I thought of my own weakness and desire to help move things toward what I know to be God's will. Surely when I act on those impulses, I work in my own strength, rather than permitting the Holy Spirit to lead and empower me. Oh, how thankful I am that unlike Abraham and Sarah, my times of helping God aren't written down for everyone to see! Although they failed to be still and trust God for His timing, the Bible is clear that their poor choice wasn't based on unbelief concerning God's promise, Romans 4:17-21. Evidently, weary of the years of childlessness, they took their own initiative after 15 years of waiting. A sad choice with consequences for not only them but so many others as well.
However, Abraham's story doesn't end in Genesis 16. There is so much more in his life. One wrong decision didn't disqualify him from being honored by God for his faith, Hebrews 11:17-19. Aren't we glad God continues to work in our lives, even though we sometimes take the initiative when He hasn't called us to do so? In Genesis 22, we read that God tested Abraham. He told the old patriarch to sacrifice his son at a place he would be shown. Yes, the one whom God had promised. The one named Isaac because his miraculous birth caused Sarah and others to laugh. Would Abraham "be still" and rest in God, Psalm 131:2? Or, would he take matters into his own hands once again? He could have done as Jonah did. He could have taken Isaac and run the other way. Instead, he "let his arms hang limp". He trusted God and found Him faithful to His Word. How was he able to do this? The Bible gives us the answer; however, it is not found in Genesis. Instead, we are privy to his thoughts in Hebrews 11:17-19. It is there that we discover Abraham's secret. He believed so strongly in what God had promised that he knew God would use miraculous means to carry it out if that is what was necessary. He didn't try to intervene this time, and do you know what I appreciate about God here? Abraham is part of the listing of men and women of faith that Hebrews 11 chronicles, and nothing is ever mentioned here about the times when he fell short. No asterisk by his name because of his imperfections. What hope that can give those of us who belong to Jesus.
Lord, Thank You for Your forgiveness for the times when we step in unbidden by Your Spirit. Help us to be still, remembering that You are the One Who will be exalted on the earth because You are the Living God, Psalm 46:10-11.