Saturday, November 3, 2012

Your Hope Will Not Be Cut Off!

Friend, your hope will not be cut off! This is actually a “part two” to my previous article, “The God of Hope Will Restore You!” I began by introducing a scripture out of Genesis chapter 4. Adam and Eve had suffered the loss of their son, Abel, who was killed out of jealousy by his brother. It was a devastating blow to their family and the future generational line of the coming Messiah. God had to do something to insure their hope would not be cut off! Whenever death, loss and devastation try to claim a person’s hope, God has another plan. Whenever grief and disappointment want to overwhelm a person’s emotions, God has another plan. Whenever jealousy and anger rise up to kill off a person’s hope for the future, we can rest assured that God has another plan. In verse 25, the scripture reads, And Adam knew his wife again and she bore a son and named him Seth, (saying) “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.”

We delved into this subject briefly in the previous article. The subject of this article is more focused on the scandalous side of God, and how He will seemingly break all the rules just to restore a person’s hope and future. He did it in the case of Tamar. She was an unlikely candidate for a breakthrough. What is amazing about this next story is that God was willing to disregard something considered taboo in order to give this tenacious woman hope for her future. The story of Tamar is found in Genesis 38. Something that is taboo is considered absolutely prohibited or forbidden by social or customary beliefs, tradition or law. It is something considered absolutely improper or unacceptable, and breaking a taboo will definitely cause strong personal reactions. This is what Tamar did, and God honored her for it, so let's take a look at why.

This is an aspect of God’s character people may not stop to think about and many probably don't like. They would say it doesn't fit with their ideal that God has to "play fair." But God's standard of "fair and just" is not based on human standards or opinions. It is based on His ability to see every aspect of the situation, taking everyone's heart, motive and actions into consideration.  He takes into consideration everything the enemy has done. God is not concerned about offending people. Jesus offended people all the time. We all need to be prepared for the chance that God will do something to deliberately offend us at some point in time. As I said, God can be pretty scandalous at times. Why He approves some situations and not others is up to His judgment alone, but He is committed to restoring hope! When offense occurs, a person will probably not be prepared for it, but how you handle any offense is key to your own right standing in your relationship with God and others. Jesus equated slander and evil speaking to a spirit of murder, (Matthew 5:21). This is a spirit of Cain. God is quite aware of those that speak with the purpose to slander someone else's reputation or intentionally try to destroy their hope and future. He knows what motivates people. Murder begins in the heart, and we must each guard our heart and our mouth so that we don't speak the wrong things. Friends, let me tell you something. If you give your heart and mouth over to this sort of behavior you will not come into your promises. You can never expect God to open the door to what He has for you if it comes at the expense of destroying someone else's character. You cannot expect to come into your promise land by the act of violence. (Read Ps. 44:3,4). God brings a person in by His grace and His favor. If a person tries to take it by force, it shall be their undoing. God will take from one person's inheritance and give it to someone else more worthy. He took the talents of one and gave them to someone else that would use them wisely. Esau was another one that despised what he had been given and didn't really want it until he lost it. What did he do then? He went on a rampage trying to hunt down his brother so he could kill him. Esau was offended, but not enough to repent and really mean it. As a result, he lost his inheritance forever and was bitter about it. That bitterness caused him to pursue his brother with a vengeance.  When a person acts in a premeditated way to give themselves over to deliberately conspiring to hurt someone else, they will have to deal with God on that issue. But consider the fact that even though Jacob tried to take Esau's inheritance perhaps in a wrong manner, God allowed it. The Bible says that GOD CHOSE JACOB and hated Esau. The word 'hate' simply means 'not to choose.' Esau didn't choose to value his inheritance, so God gave it to someone that would. Scandalous, huh? :-)

Offense can cause people to mistakenly ascribe a situation to the working of the enemy, rather than recognizing that God is at work on a different level. Don't get all wrapped up in something because you think what is transpiring can't possibly be God’s plan. God will mess with your theology and value system! You don't always have to agree with God but you do have to keep yourself from touching what He's doing. Often how God works goes against what a person thinks they understand about God or His word.  That is the time when you really need to guard your heart against being offended, because offense will always turn into rebellion if not surrendered to God. Offense is often pride that feels self knows better than God. Jesus challenged not only his disciples way of thinking, but the religious and those with hard, judgmental attitudes as well. They could not understand this God-man that was unsafe, uncontrollable and unpredictable, but it was also the reason why  they missed the time of their visitation! I will say it again, “God will break a taboo in order to personally see to it that the person HE HAS CHOSEN to carry out a particular task is able to fulfill it. He will disregard protocol, opinions and preferences of others so that those HE HAS CHOSEN to bear His name are able to do what they were commissioned to do. God will do just about anything to restore a person’s hope for the future. God will always see to it that a seed of hope is there to carry on the promise.” And when the enemy tries to kill that seed of hope, God can be even more inclined to seemingly break the rules that man thinks God should follow. Expect Him to turn things upside down. Expect Him to work outside of your understanding! He creates situations that will show His glory, both in the vessels He has created for honor, and those He has created for dishonor. His favor will shine on one while another receives His rebuke. It often offends those that don't understand why He is doing things a certain way. He won't fit in the box of anyone's expectations.

Let us get back to the story of Tamar. Tamar married the son of Judah, whose name was Er. #1 son was wicked and the Bible says God killed him. The custom of the day was that the next son in line would marry the widow of his brother in order to make sure that a genealogical line always had an heir of inheritance. Judah’s second son, Onan, was to fulfill his brother’s duty of marrying Tamar and providing children as the inheritance for his deceased brother. But son #2 was wicked also and refused to honor what was expected of him, so therefore God killed him as well. The third son, Shelah, was much too young to marry but Judah deceptively convinced his daughter-in-law to be patient, and when he got of age, he promised that the youngest son would marry Tamar and give her children for her inheritance. Tamar put all her hope in this promise, yet Judah had no intention of fulfilling his part of the deal. Perhaps he became too afraid of losing another son. Both his previous sons had died, and no doubt he blamed Tamar rather than the wickedness of his own sons. But, eventually, Tamar came to realize the lack of integrity to fulfill the vow and became desperate. By this time, she had grown significantly older and her chances of marrying and having children were slipping by. Tamar was spurred on by the injustice of her situation and decided to do something about it. This where it gets really interesting.

God is a God of justice, and it was the injustice that was put upon innocent Tamar that caused Him to look on her situation aside from all the legalities of the law. Tamar did the unthinkable: she took off her robes of a grieving widow and posed as a prostitute.  In disguise, she invited her father-in-law, Judah, into bed with her. It was a deliberate act to take what she felt she was entitled to, and she took it from the one person that had stood in her way to block her from receiving her inheritance. Remember, it was not only customary but it was her right to expect the Levirate law to be fulfilled so that the family line would be maintained . Tamar was desperate and was driven by a sense of injustice. Judah had made a promise but was insincere towards fulfilling it.  As a result of her bold act of faith, Tamar conceived  twins. There was no way she was going to be able to hide what she had done. When it was reported to her father-in-law that she was pregnant through an immoral act, Judah commanded that she be brought out to be stoned for her sin. Judah seized the opportunity rid himself of Tamar. Tamar, however, presented the staff and the signet that identified Judah as the father of her unborn children. Judah, when confronted with his sin, was convicted in his heart and declared, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her Shelah my son.” What had been a private injustice was now known publicly. Because God saw it all, He decided to bless her actions that were birthed out of pain and injustice. Never let it be said that God does not see or understand what happens behind closed doors. He knew what Judah had promised, not just once, but twice, and He knew Judah never intended to make good on his promise. God knew the injustice. He understood what motivated both Judah and Tamar. Although it doesn’t sit well with our concept of “righteousness” or even our understanding of God’s word, GOD CHOSE TAMAR and put a blessing on her life. I am sure that if we had lived in her day, many people would say she was not worthy of the blessing she received. Many, including Judah, were probably offended at the thought of Tamar and her actions. She lured her father-in-law into bed under the guise of being a prostitute just to get impregnated. Many might say that she should have received the death sentence for her impropriety and unabashed, shameless way that she conducted herself. It would have been customary to have her stoned. However, this is not what what going through God’s mind or heart as her story was being played out! God always, always looks at the motivation of people's actions. Man may judge by outward appearances but God looks at the heart. He sees what is done in secret and what is conspired in order to deceive. He knows why people do the things they do. God disregarded what was taboo in the minds of others and gave her not just one child, but two: a double portion. Twins were considered a special blessing from the Lord. As she was giving birth, a midwife tied a scarlet thread around the hand of the child that was about to be born first, because his hand had already come out of the birth canal. (Zerah) had the scarlet thread around his hand in order to mark him as the firstborn. Then the unthinkable - and if I might add, what should have been physically impossible - occurred. Take note: Some people are called to displace others in the right of inheritance, but only GOD knows why. It is HIS right to choose. The other twin (Perez) suddenly moved into place, displacing his brother, and was born first. If you know anything about the tight constriction of the birth process and having a child move into the birth canal ready to be born, it would seem as though nothing would move that particular child out of place. Yet, by the appointment of God, and the perfect time and placement of God, this child came forth first and became the one to inherit the promise. He became the child named Perez, or breakthrough.  Tamar was a Canaanite that became a heroine in the Bible and in the lineage of the Messiah, despite where she came from and the nature of her actions. She gave birth to a son named Perez, which means breakthrough, and Perez was in the lineage of David. GOD CHOSE TAMAR AND HE CHOSE PEREZ. What hope it gives to all of us! No matter where you've come from or what you've done, God can put a special blessing on your life, too. Did you know He has also chosen YOU?

There are other instances of course, in which God intervened in the lives of ordinary people simply to demonstrate who was chosen and who was not. Take King David, for example. David was chosen while Saul was not. There was a grave case for injustice there, too. Saul may have been first to take the kingship, but he used his power and authority unwisely. He used all his influence and all his resources to pursue and attempt to kill a man that was more righteous than himself - all because of jealousy. Let it be said that Saul was willing to sacrifice those on his side for the sake of selfish gain. He cared not for their souls but used them in a personal war of vengeance. Saul was afraid of losing his kingdom and began to act out of fear and offense. Had he truly repented, perhaps his story would have turned out different, but Saul was too proud to repent. He could only pursue the person he saw as a competitor and try to have him killed. (This is the spirit of Cain, rising up again!). Because of the injustice, David prevailed and inherited everything that belonged to Saul. Haman, too, and Esther, prevailed against injustice and destruction aimed at the Jews and inherited the house of their enemy. This is God’s position against treachery and injustice. He moves the mountains of impossibilities to make room for hope to be birthed again. What we recover is always more than is what is lost.

There are more examples. In the life of an adulterous woman caught in the act and publicly shamed, Jesus became the exonerator and liberator. When all the accusers were demanding justice and wanting this woman stoned for her crimes, Jesus stood as a mediator and as a shield. He saw the injustice and He intervened. Did it come against the norm of the day? Yes. Did Jesus care if He offended people? Not one bit. A person others saw as offensive and expendable received the blessing of protection and forgiveness whether others thought she deserved it or not.

Perhaps the most memorable of stigmas is the one that God allowed Mary, the mother of Jesus, to carry. Out of the blue, an angel showed up to announce God’s intention and His promise to a quite unsuspecting young woman. May I add that this young woman was innocent of any and all apparent transgression and yet still a virgin. She was considered innocent not only in the eyes of God, but in the public eye as well - but, once favor was bestowed upon her it didn’t seem to count for much in the eyes of the public. Once it was spoken out loud, once the evidence of God’s choosing and favor was upon her, Mary’s life was never the same. She was chosen for a great privilege and had God’s favor, yes, but to the world that was watching her life, all they could do was judge her and find her guilty of immorality. They did not know she had a visitation with an angel or that God had CHOSEN Mary. They wouldn't and couldn't believe it anyway because it was too much for them to wrap their head around. Mary became an outcast, yet she was chosen by God to bear His promise. She, too, was almost stoned for a sin of adultery. Mary was promised to marry a young man named Joseph, but even Joseph was offended enough that he wanted to rid himself of her. He thought she had been unfaithful. He didn't want to bear the shame of identifying with Mary nor the offense he felt towards her. Joseph wanted to divorce her privately until God gave him a dream and reassured him that Mary was in fact innocent of transgression. God had to speak to Joseph to help him understand that everything that was happening was really the plan of God, then Joseph got on board with God's plan. Joseph had been hand picked to protect and preserve not just Mary, but the promised Messiah. What an honor! But it also brought great trouble. God had to resolve Joseph's offense and troubled mind. God didn’t lift the stigma of false judgment and accusation; He simply removed them from public view for a season while the promise came to birth.

We ask for much, but sometimes I wonder if we truly realize what it will cost. What is the stigma we must bear for God's promise coming to pass in our life? The spirit of Cain and the spirit of death cooperate together to try to kill, steal and destroy our hope for the future. Hell will always be unleashed to destroy the prophetic promise before it can come to birth, but even in those cases we have a hope that will not be cut off. God has a plan to bring it all to completion."For I know the thoughts I think about you," says the Lord, "thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jer. 29:11).

This is the God we serve; a God that isn’t safe, predictable and not able to be controlled. This is the God that loves us so incomprehensibly and so dearly that He is willing to break what is considered taboo just to bless us and give us hope for our future. He doesn’t care who it offends as long as we continue to have hope, knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us. He sets things right. And when the enemy comes to kill the plan or promise of God, He has a seed waiting that will spring forth and bear fruit to birth HIS promise at the appointed time. It is already appointed and set in place. Dear one, your hope will not be cut off. God sees. He understands, and He has a plan with all of this in mind. This is the God that loves you.

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