Messiah Lutheran Church :: THE FUTILE BATTLE OF WILLS

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Dear friends in Christ,

A TV talk show had a body builder as a guest.  The body builder sat there with his shirt off and muscles bulging from muscles.  The skinny host of the talk show asked the question, "Why do you develop those muscles?" The body builder didn’t answer the question but simply flexed his muscles for the camera. The audience laughed and applauded. The host asked him a little different question, "What do you use all those muscles for?" Again the bodybuilder flexed his muscles as his biceps and triceps bulged impressively.  "But what do you USE those muscles for?" the host persisted.  Frankly, the body builder didn’t answer the question.  He just continued to amuse the audience by flexing hisPecsas if that were what life is all about.  He didn’t really have an answer.

Why are Christians encouraged to spend time going to church?  Why are Christians encouraged to read their Bibles and remember the promises of their baptisms?  Why do God’s people come to the Lord’s Supper?  Why?  Through Word and Sacrament the Holy Spirit builds our relationship to the Lord. Faithin Christ is strengthened.  Through Christ we go to heaven.    

Soul building is necessary.  We have a problem inside of us.  It’s called a sinful nature, an evil heart.  How does it show itself?  The sinful nature likes the word “me” and “I” an awful lot.  It’s not big on the Lord.  The sinful nature likes to say, “My will be done,” not “Thy will be done, Lord.”  That’s the problem with Abraham and Sarah in this story from their lives.  We learn about the “Futile Battle of the Wills; 1) My will? or 2) Thy will?

I like the program on TV Duck Dynasty.  I am glad that I am home by ten pm on Wednesday nights to watch it.  This past week Duck Dynasty kicked off its season with record numbers of viewers - 11.8 million viewers.  It was the largest audience ever for a non-fiction cable series.  A TV critic stated that he is baffled by it.  He admits it is a wholesome program.  There is no sex and violence.  It is obvious that the Robertson family is Christian.  They close each program with a prayer.  A&E is not a religious channel.  The critic wrote this makes no sense because he said people doing naughty things makes for good TV.  Duck Dynasty breaks that principle.  If people doing naughty things makes good TV, this story of Abraham and Sarah would make good Hollywood TV. 

Abraham was eighty six years old, Sarah was 76.  “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.” Yet God had promised that they would have a child to be the beginning of a great nation.  That nation would be a blessing to all nations. 

Considering their age, Abraham and Sarah had already tried to help God out by adopting Eliezer, a servant they had.  God headed that plan off at the pass and promised that adoption was not the way it was going to happen.  The son would come from Abraham’s body.  Abraham would supply the baby makers.

Since God said that Abraham would father the child, Sarah thought the problem rested in her.  Another plan was hatched. “But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Sarah!  No! To make matters worse “Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.” Abraham!  No!

Some Bible commentators take it easy on Sarah and Abraham.  After all there is the age problem.  It was impossible to think that Sarah, already was 76 years old, would ever have a baby.  They concluded once more that they would have to help God out and do it “my way” instead of “thy way.”   

It is a malady that Christians suffer from - to try to help God out or to try to explain what God really means.  Many like to do that when it comes to scientific things.  Even though God defines days with words like light and darkness, day and night, to simply say that God said, “Let there be and there was” is impossible.  Pretty soon God is reduced to a powerless God when he says about himself he is “Almighty God.”  My will and ways instead of Thy will and ways – it is always wrong!    

Sinful human beings redefine what God has defined.  In marriage God brought two people together, one man and one woman and united them in marriage.  There was Adam and Eve, not and Sally and Betty and Jocelyn.  It was Adam and Eve and Adam and Eve only.  Notice what Sarah and
Abraham did.  “Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.”  They redefined marriage.  They added an extra person. 

Redefining marriage is not new.  Look at the twist done these days - a man and a man or a woman and a woman.  You know what it really boils down to?   MY WILL BE DONE and not THY WILL BE DONE.  A new twist to an old sin! 

The new definition created by Abraham and Sarah led to nothing but trouble.  A baby was conceived. Sad to say, however, it wasn’t a joyous event.  “When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.” Look what happened.  Tension, jealousy, the lack of total commitment resulted.  Hagar flaunted her pregnancy in front of Sarah. Sarah found it impossible to be nice to Hagar.  Abraham, who should never have allowed this to happen in the first place, was in the doghouse with Sarah.  Sarah and Abraham had one very rough husband/wife discussion.  “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

A “my will” solution just doesn’t work.  The “my will” solution here created bitterness and boasting and backbiting.   The Bible is filled with “my will” solutions even by God’s people.  God wanted Jonah to go east and preach to the people ofNineveh.  Jonah went west and became the main course for dinner of a whale.  King Saul didn’t think God’s Will was revealed fast enough and imposed his will instead of waiting for the Lord’s prophet. Finally Saul only listened to his own will and turned away from the Lord.  Instead of seeking God’s will on a sleepless night and devoting time for prayer, David found his will wanting someone he never should have had. 

That’s what I mean when I said we were going to talk about the futile battle of the wills.  Whose will will always lose? 

It is true that even for the Christian, loved by the Lord and forgiven in the blood of Jesus, God promises to make all things turn work for good, but the good might be the hard lesson we had to learn.

Remember this too: drinking too much, driving too fast, eating too much, seeing too much, wanting too much, excusing too much, my will too much God sent his son to die for.  He has removed the eternal consequences but that doesn’t remove the earthly consequences of self will.  Look at all the earthly consequences of my will in the family of Abraham.

Now let’s look at the Will of God and why it is needed and such a blessing.  When Hagar flaunted her pregnancy, Sarah mistreated her.  Hagar fled.  While she was not involved in the family line to bring the desperately need Savior to this world like Sarah would be, that doesn’t mean that God didn’t care for her.  He did…immensely.  “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.”

Something is mentioned in this verse that is very interesting and we need to take note of. The term “the angel of the Lord” is used.  It is not an angel of the Lord but “the angel of the Lord.”  The angel of the Lord is obviously God. He makes promises here that only God could make. 

He appears other times in the Old Testament too.  If you look in the book of Zechariah 1: 9-14 the angel of the Lord and the Lord have conversation.  This is a conversation between the persons of the godhead.  This is the reason scholars say that the Angel of the Lord is really the pre-incarnate Jesus, Jesus in the Old Testament.  It is very sound reasoning.

He comes to Hagar, a young lady who is alone and hurting.  She is pregnant wondering what her future is going to be.  We see the will of God here, don’t we?  He appears to her because she is valuable to him.  She recognizes that it is the Lord.  We are told, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me …I have now seen the One who sees me.” She realizes it is time to quit following her own will and then listen to the Lord 

Remember the Lord makes it abundantly clear that’s how he feels about us all.  He wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth about Jesus.  He speaks to us in his word.  Listen to it.  He reveals his will here; study it.

There was more Hagar got to find out about the will of God.  Life is not a bowl of cherries.  “Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”  This is a hard reality of life.  Sometimes it is so true that we make our bed and we must also sleep in it.  If she had done things differently instead of flaunting her pregnancy, if she had loved (Hey that’s the will of God!) she wouldn’t be by this spring all alone wondering what she was going to do.  The will of God is not to run away from those whom we offend but to seek forgiveness and be forgiving.   

The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”  The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”  She found out what a God of grace the God of Abraham really was.  Remember she came from Egypt where she wouldn’t have known him.   She was given a preview of what her son would be like.  His descendants were the Ishmaelites.  Don’t believe the Muslims who take credit for him being their father.  He was the father of the Ishmaelites. “He would be a wild donkey of a man.” He had a free spirit.  The Lord was giving Mom a heads up to check the traits when he showed them.  Through it all she learned a valuable lesson about the will of God.

Everyone here has a story and lesson learned about what happens when we decide to go our way instead of the will of God.  I am sure that everyone has the same end to the story.  Lesson learned but a tough lesson indeed!  In the end isn't the lesson learned this: The will of God, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. 

 

Amen

 

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